One of the most important steps is taking care of your own health, too.
Finding support, whether friends or a support group, can make a huge difference.
Developing a strong relationship with the medical team can make advocating easier.
Avoiding all the "what if" questions can improve stressful, challenging days.
In recent reports, an estimated 2.8 million Americans are caring for someone with cancer. Of that 2.8 million, 88% are caring for someone in their family. Caregiving is a difficult job, no matter the circumstances. Caring for someone with a rare, aggressive cancer like mesothelioma can present its own set of challenges.
- Sleep disruption
- Ignoring own health needs like exercise
- Physical care of the patient
- Strained relationships
- Feeling isolated
- High levels of stress
- Time commitment
- Financial burdens
Despite the challenges, millions of Americans step up to care for their loved ones each year. The most important thing to realize is you don’t have to go through this journey or take on all these struggles alone.
Help for Caregivers
As a mesothelioma caregiver, it is very easy to become overwhelmed with the situation. Caring for someone facing such a poor prognosis, especially when taking care of a loved one, is very emotional and can quickly lead to feeling burned out. But there are some simple steps to take to help lighten the physical and mental strains of caregiving.
Establish a Caregiver Contract
Even if you’re providing care for a family member, taking the time to work out a contract with them can make the process smoother. A caregiver contract or personal care agreement is an agreement between the patient and caregiver that lays out expectations of the relationship. The contract can include information like:
- Detailed description of services provided, like transportation and errands
- Flexible arrangement of how often services are needed
- Compensation, if any
- Location of services
Though it might seem odd to hand your loved one a contract that should be treated as a legal document, these agreements can relieve a lot of stress and help avoid potential problems. Even if you don’t expect compensation for acting as a caregiver to a loved one, in a sense this is still a job and clear expectations will help eliminate conflict and give both parties better peace of mind.
Find a Support System
Caregivers take on a lot of responsibilities in the midst of a rather stressful situation. It’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed by everything on your plate, and feel like you’re going down this path alone.
Having a support system can not only lighten the emotional and mental exhaustion you experience in this type of work, but can also connect you with others nearby who are willing to help out with various tasks, like running some errands or taking the patient to an appointment. Joining a support group can help you find others in a similar situation. It can be helpful to hear tips from personal experience, as well as simply realizing you’re not facing the job alone.
Take Care of Yourself
Putting the patient first is a huge aspect of caregiving. It can be easy to become consumed by your caregiving duties. After spending so much energy making appointments, running errands or facing other tasks needed, it can be difficult to step out of that role and want to plan for your own needs. But planning time for yourself and making sure you stay healthy is just as important as caring for the patient.
By making the choice to set some time aside for yourself, whether it’s to take care of your own errands or just relax watching a movie, you’ll be in a better mindset to take on the challenging tasks of your job. Even some mental breaks during the day can make a huge difference in your overall well-being.
Work with the Health Experts
As a family member taking on a caregiving role, it can be overwhelming to understand all the medical circumstances around a mesothelioma diagnosis and the treatment options available. Many caregivers become an advocate for the patient and have to interact with the medical team to discuss a patient’s treatment, any side effects they’re experiencing, and better understanding how to manage their care.
Developing a strong working relationship with the medical team can not only put your mind at ease that your loved one is receiving the best care, but can also make you feel more comfortable reaching out with questions or for help. Being organized for doctors’ visits with scans and medication schedules can also help put you at ease and feel more prepared for what can be stressful appointments.
Be Mindful of What You Can and Can’t Control
Everyone faces moments in life where they’re inundated with all the “what if” questions. As a caregiver, it can be even easier to question the care you’re providing or wondering if you could have handled a certain situation better–especially as someone stepping into the role for the first time after a loved one’s been diagnosed. These questions only add to an already high-stress situation.
Remind yourself that no matter how hard a day may be, you’re doing the best you can. You can’t control every situation and you certainly can’t control your loved one’s cancer journey. You can only control your mindset and how you take on these challenges. Take a few deep breaths, clear your thoughts, and re-energize for the next task at hand.
For more information on caregiving and additional support, here are some other resources to help get you started.