Receiving a lung cancer diagnosis can be the scariest, and most overwhelming news one can get. It can lead to extreme life changes and a long, tumultuous battle. So how do you respond when it’s not you who receives the heartbreaking news, but rather, someone you care about? What are you supposed to do next if you are now in an unexpected caregiver role? Learning what is expected and needed from you, as well as helping someone navigate this treacherous path can be incredibly overwhelming. We’ve put together a list of ways you can help a loved one with lung cancer if you suddenly find yourself in a caregiving position.
Get Healthily Informed
It is so crucial to research what you are up against. Being in the know can help raise your confidence and make you a stronger support for your loved one to lean on. Be careful, however, that when getting informed, you use reputable sources, and don’t get bogged down or scared by numbers. There are many excellent and factual websites with information, and others that are not so factual. Make sure you take the time to distinguish these sources. The information on our community has all been corroborated by experts and can be a great resource. It’s also so important to not get bogged down by numbers and statistics. These pieces of data can leave you and your loved one feeling like you are facing an insurmountable battle, however, everyone’s experience is different and these data points may not represent your loved one’s journey.
Join the Healthcare Team
If you are a loved one’s primary caregiver, it is important to be in the know on their experiences and options. Joining your loved one on their office visits or being present when their healthcare team is presenting different treatment options can be comforting, and provide and extra set of ears. If your loved one isn’t comfortable with you tagging along, try to set up your own appointment with their team to discuss any questions you may have as a caregiver. If you do accompany your loved one to their appointments, it can be so helpful to be their longer-term eyes and ears. This can be accomplished by taking notes on different side effects to medications, adverse ailments that pop up, and any questions your loved one may have. Creating an organized journal or list of observations and experiences your loved one has in between appointments and bringing them to their doctor’s attention can help inform the professionals on what’s working and what isn’t.
Take Care of Yourself
We can get so wrapped up in taking care of our loved ones, that we forget to take care of ourselves. While it may seem okay to put yourself second at times, remember, in order to be an effective caregiver, you’ll need energy and a positive mindset. Getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising, and addressing your basic needs will keep you on your A-game and ready for whatever happens next. Additionally, many individuals with chronic illnesses experience weakened immune systems. If you ignore the little cold that’s been getting you down for a couple days, it could actually manifest into something much more serious for your loved one.
Keep Open Communication
While your loved one may be feeling down as a result of their diagnosis or treatment experience, it is still so important to try to foster effective and healthy communication. Knowing what your loved one specifically needs from you, and what they don’t need, can keep your relationship flowing smoothly. Additionally, they can let you know what is and isn’t working for them, who they want to see, what activities they want to do, and what treatment plans they are thinking about, so you get an idea of what they’re looking for on many fronts. It’s also helpful to have open and honest communication in case you yourself are feeling burnt out. It is totally normal to be frustrated or stressed by this new position, and you’re NOT expected to do it all by yourself. Being able to talk to your loved one about what is and isn’t working for you, and what you need in order to help them the most you can, will keep both of you healthier and happier in the long run.