Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Caregivers Journey

Good Morning Cancer Patients and Caregivers;
I recently provided a session with a cancer support group that had more cancer caregivers in the group than cancer patients. The caregivers were spouses, children, grandchildren, relatives and friends. During the sessions, I always have a segment devoted to the caregiver. Having been a cancer patient and not a caregiver, this segment about the caregiver is from an observation point of view and not from the actual experience of being a caregiver. Only the caregiver knows and understands the journey of the caregiver on the cancer patient's treatment journey.

As a result of the discussions and questions regarding care giving of the cancer patient, several observations about the caregiver's journey are worth the attention of the cancer patient;
1. The caregiver's life is disrupted equally as much by the diagnoses of cancer.
2. The caregiver had a life B4 becoming the caregiver and the new routine is now consuming that time.  
3. The stress and agony of cancer is equally hard on the caregiver.
4. A sense of guilt is felt when the caregiver now does things they did B4 the cancer diagnosis, and the
    cancer patient cannot participate.
5. Fear of the future and maintaining a sense of security through the journey creates added stress.
6. The roles and responsibilities of being a caregiver are not defined for the caregiver and the cancer patient.
7. The caregiver gives up the time they use to have for themself as it is being consumed by care giving.
8. The caregiver suffers in silence.

Surviving cancer is equally as stressful for the caregiver as it is for the cancer patient. The pain for the caregiver is more emotional than physical pain. If not recognized and attended to, the stress may begin to affect the caregivers own health. If the caregiver goes down, the cancer patient is going to be in big trouble.
The cancer patient and caregiver must work together to:
  •  Define the role of the caregiver for the journey
  •  The caregiver needs to maintain their life by managing the stress, staying healthy and making time for   themself
  • The caregiver can't become a martyr, they should be patient with the cancer patient, push the patient when they need to be pushed, don't be mistreated, and don't turn away any help that is offered to you.
The cancer treatment journey doesn't have to be made more difficult than it already is for the cancer patient and the caregiver. The caregiver has a new role and responsibilities as well as added stress and emotional turmoil. The caregiver needs to recognize the challenges that are not obvious during the treatment journey, and take care of themself.  Being the designated caregiver doesn't mean your the designated martyr.

Stay healthy, keep your sense of humor and never give up.

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