Caregiver Checklist

The caregiver plays a very crucial role in the treatment process of a breast cancer patient. He or she is almost as important as the patient’s oncologist or healthcare expert. Cancer is a disease that can have a debilitating effect on the patient’s mental status and treatment includes working on her psyche and making her mentally strong. And this is where you, the caregiver, steps in, whether a parent, spouse, partner, sibling or a close friend. From waking till night, the cancer patient is communicating with you. You are like a lifeline for the patient.

Cancer is a disease that affects the entire family and not just the patient. It is extremely tough to watch your loved one suffering and so, the morale of the entire family is down. Therefore, if the caregiver is a family member, it becomes especially important that you are mentally strong as you have to not only handle anxiety, depression, resentment and fear but also not allow yourself to be overwhelmed by these emotions.

Here is how you can help be an effective caregiver:

Managing breast cancer patient’s needs

Your role as a caregiver starts as soon as treatment begins because the physical symptoms can be really challenging. Side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy can make the patient feel distraught what with nausea, vomiting, fatigue and mouth soreness taking its toll on the physical health. You not only have to monitor the medication routine to overcome these symptoms but also provide emotional or psychological encouragement. Observe the symptoms on a daily basis so you can report to the doctor about the ups and downs and seek his advice on how to control them.

Encourage communication with the breast cancer patient

This is a very important aspect in the relationship between the caregiver and a breast cancer patient. Everything between you both has to be crystal clear so that you know where you are headed with regards to the treatment, finance and the future. Good communication is also vital in ensuring the mental well being of the patient because she should be able to confide in you without inhibitions and share all her fears, anxiety and frustrations. It will also help you speak up for the patient about her needs in front of other family members.

Doctor’s visit: Accompanying breast cancer patient

Accompany the breast cancer patient on her every visit to the doctor. Make notes of what you need to update him regarding the patient’s health status. This will take the burden off the patient of having to remember what to ask the doctor. Also, write down what you need to ask him and get all your questions answered. Take down notes if you have to. Write down details of medical tests that have to be carried out so that everything is done as per schedule. If a new medicine is prescribed, ask the doctor for more details on that and find out if this could have any side effects so you are prepared to handle them.

Emotional support to breast cancer patient

You need to display a lot of patience, encouragement and have a good sense of humor so the atmosphere is lightened up. You are like a lifeline for the patient and she has now begun to look up to you for everything. So, you have to stand as strong as a rock and be a pillar of emotional support for her. You need to first believe that she is going to recover completely and this faith will transmit to her, too. Show a positive attitude and talk a lot about the future so that the patient is filled with hope.

Help the patient become active and more independent. Don’t do things which the patient can do herself, like taking a shower, dressing herself. This will bring back some amount of self-confidence in her.

Help breast cancer patient take decisions

You should know whether something is an emergency or not and be able to take a decision when to call the doctor. Therefore, talk to the doctor about what symptoms you should consider a crisis. Keep the hospital’s emergency number at hand and also know who to call on weekends.

Be organized

Organize all the treatment and hospital paperwork and keep them under your supervision so that nothing goes missing. If everything is done under your direction then you will know what is kept where and you can access it without wasting time.

Stay entertained

Both the patient and you need to take a break on and off. Plan an outing or a movie to spend some time away from medicines and hospitals. Go for a special dinner out. Or while at home watch a comedy film together. Nothing like a good laugh in the times of sadness. Laughter is a good medicine for both the body and the soul.

Take care of yourself

It is also very important that you take good care of yourself. You will feel emotionally drained and stressed out so make some time for yourself. Meditate and do regular exercise or yoga to relax yourself and help reduce your stress. Keep yourself physically and mentally strong. Take a short vacation if possible and re-energize yourself. You have to preserve your energy so that you can take good care of the patient.

Research and information on breast cancer

With so many different types of therapies available today, the patient is faced with many options. Decisions have to be taken. However, the patient is not in the right frame of mind to think clearly and so you will have to pitch in. Research work will need to be done and information gathered. Options have to be short-listed and then presented to the patient with all pros and cons highlighted. You will have to help the patient take a decision.

 

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