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In part one of the Caregiver’s Resource Guide, we discussed the effect that caregiving might have on the caregiver. In this part, the MCA will cover the caregiver as a patient advocate, how to stay organized, and the benefits of caregiving on both the patient and the caregiver.
Caregivers as Advocates
As a caregiver for a cancer patient, it is expected that you will play many roles. These roles can range from important financial planning to simply lending an ear to your patient in emotional times. It can help a caregiver to see themselves as more of an advocate for their patient, taking on the weight of the many challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis while also offering mental and emotional support. As an advocate for your patient, some of the major components of your role will include:
Actively Seeking Information
A caregiver must know as much about their patient’s cancer as possible. Keep an open ear during all medical appointments and plan questions to ask doctors ahead of time. Do personal research on the cancer.
Becoming a Financial Planner
One of the first discussions a caregiver must have with the patient is an honest talk about the patient’s financial situation. Will their disease keep them out of work? How much money can he or she set aside for treatment and other medical costs? Being aware of a patient’s financial status will help guide future healthcare decisions and help avoid a financial meltdown in the long run. More on organizing finances in the next section.
The best thing a caregiver can do is listen to their patient. Listen for your patient to mention any new side effects or symptoms, then write them down and report them to the correct medical professional. Ask your patient questions about their emotional and mental health as well as how they’re feeling physically. Discuss his or her fears and hopes. Having open, honest talks will build trust between you and your patient and leave him or her at peace, knowing someone is hearing them out.
Being Proactive on Behalf of the Patient
It’s easy for a cancer patient to clam up in medical and other treatment appointments. He or she might be scared and willing to trust any other opinion that comes from a professional. As an advocate for your patient, you must stand up for him or her. Ask the tough questions in appointments and talk to your patient one on one about what he or she wants to get out of each meeting and what he or she expects for the long term. Remind them that they are still in charge of their cancer and help them find their voice.
When it comes to caregiving, you’re only as good as you are organized. While that may not be the only way to determine whether a caregiver is necessarily good or not, staying organized is absolutely crucial to successful caregiving. Cancer treatment requires tons of appointments, receipts, and medications and if a caregiver doesn’t stay organized, important information could be lost and appointments could be missed. By avoiding leaving things to organize later and consistently keeping everything in order, keeping up with it all can be simple and stress free.
Use a traditional calendar and post it in the patient’s home. Write down all appointments and the details, including the time of the appointment, the doctor’s name and transportation details. Use different colors or another way of setting different types of appointments apart. Set up text message or email reminders on a mobile device to make sure absolutely nothing is missed.
Buy a bin or other organizer from a home or office supply store and use it to keep all medications in one place in the patient’s home. Make a spreadsheet that includes the name of the medication, the doctor who prescribed it, and what it treats. If possible, have all medications delivered to the same pharmacy and keep notes of when prescriptions need to be refilled. Also stay supplied with every day over the counter medications such as ibuprofen and cortisone creams that will come in handy.
Be aware that the help of a professional financial planner may be necessary if expenses become too complicated. Keep all receipts, from treatment bills to small drugstore purchases. Your patient must know where their money is going and this will help in the event that a professional is ultimately required. Keep all financial records organized in a safe place and do not disclose their location anyone who does not need to view them regularly.
The Benefits of Caregiving
Caregiving for a cancer patient can be an uncomfortable and difficult undertaking. It requires an immense sacrifice of your personal time and constantly tests your emotional, mental, and physical strength. Although it’s important to stress the potential hardships, it is even more important to note the fulfilling and beneficial impacts caregiving can have on both the patient and the caregiver.
- A caregiver’s commitment to their patient can give a sense of hope to a person struggling to find it after a cancer diagnosis.
- Caregivers revive meaning and bring importance in the lives of their patients.
- Caregivers are usually physically more capable and more active than non-caregivers, which can lead to personal health benefits.
- Caregivers can develop a deeper sense of strength by dealing with adversity and can pass that on to their patients.
- Both the caregiver and the patient gain a loyal, trustworthy friend in one another.
- Caregivers become more in touch with their personal self-worth by helping another human being so generously.