Creating a Support System for Caregivers and Families

In Breast Cancer, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

A cancer diagnosis not only affects the cancer patient but also affects every single family member, friend, co-worker, associate and acquaintance of that patient. While a patient receives the best care possible from a team of doctors who are there to deal with and handle every medical need imaginable, the medical care is far from the only factor that needs to be addressed. There is also the matter of living your life during and after the immediate surgeries, treatment and long-term care that may be necessary. And most often we forget about those who are most important in your life and their well-being at the same time.

If you find that you don’t know what to do or where to seek help, you can always look to answers from your medical team, your local support agencies, your church, your school’s PTO or just about anyone that you know. Barbara Jacoby

For many, your spouse or significant other or other primary adult in your household will become the person who will be managing matters with regard to your medical care and your normal responsibilities. Therefore it becomes extremely important to recognize that this person not only has to deal with their usual responsibilities but now must take on a whole new set that are yours and this is no easy task for anyone especially when there is also the added stress of your health and what that holds for the future.

Just like a patient needs a whole team of people to help, so should a primary caregiver be afforded the opportunity to have a support team. Your caregiver needs someone with whom they can talk and share how they are feeling. They need to have an emotional outlet especially if you have been the person with whom they usually share their most intimate thoughts and feelings. They will need to have help in dealing with the household chores including the cleaning and laundry and shopping and preparing of meals. And they need time away from the home whether it be for a walk in the park, a movie, a spa treatment, a meal with a friend or any other break away to relax a bit on both a physical and mental level.

And if there are children in the household, assistance will be needed to take care of the them and their daily needs as well. Perhaps a close family member or friend can help with the very young and their care. For the older children, you might be able to enlist the parents of your children’s friends to help with carpool duty to and from school and for extracurricular activities. Maybe a neighbor or some of your work associates would be willing to pitch in and deliver some home-cooked meals to you and your family or be willing to help with some of your grocery shopping when they head out to the store to do their own shopping.

And, of course, let’s not forget about the psychological effect on the children who are in an especially vulnerable position at this time. Depending upon their ages, they may or may not understand what is going on but the one thing that they do know is that their parent is sick. Not only has their routine been disrupted but also they will have a fear that their parent will not be there for them in the future. I believe that each child should be matched with an adult who is outside of the home who will act as the child’s very own “go to” person. This may be a neighbor or a parent of one of the child’s friends or a family relative who is nearby. This person and the person’s home should be a place to which the child can escape when they are feeling overwhelmed or having problems with dealing with what is going on in their own home. This person can be someone who has been entrusted as a confidante and an overseer of the child’s wellbeing and can report any issues to the parent if it appears that the child is in need of other help or attention.

Help is always available for patients and those who are doing what they can to support the patient’s support team. If you find that you don’t know what to do or where to seek help, you can always look to answers from your medical team, your local support agencies, your church, your school’s PTO or just about anyone that you know. I have found that most people are willing to help if you just ask them for that help or their opinion or guidance in finding the help and resources that you need.