Most people who become a caregiver for a relative or friend, have no training for the job.
No-one plans to get cancer and no-one expects to be a caregiver for someone with cancer. But it happens all the time. The person receiving the cancer diagnosis has their world 'turned upside down'.
Then a caregiver steps up and along with the patient, has a huge learning curve to negotiate. They need to learn about the cancer diagnosis, medications, and treatment.
The caregiver may not live at the same address as the person with cancer. But either way, will be busy organising meals and household chores. The caregiver may drop children at school and after school activities. Also pick up prescriptions and drive the person with cancer to medical appointments.
The caregiver becomes a constant source of encouragement.
But who looks after the caregiver?
Don't let the main caregiver become overwhelmed and exhausted. As this will also have an impact on the person with cancer. They are likely to start worrying about their caregiver at a time when they need to focus on their own healing.
There are many ways to help both the person with cancer and the caregiver. Helping the caregiver supports the cancer patient. Because they know that their caregiver is supported.
Below are some tips and suggestions for helping the caregiver. Feel free to add more ideas in the comments section below.
The caregiver may be reluctant to accept help, so be specific when you offer help. Eg, "I'm going to the shops, do you need any prescriptions picked up while I'm there?" If you make a generic offer to help, people are less likely to think of something for you to do. But making a specific offer to help is more likely to be successful.
Other suggestions could include:
Offer to take the kids to their after-school activity once a week.
Drop off a meal, especially if it's something that can go into the freezer.
Organise a roster with friends in the neighbourhood to cook and drop off a meal a few nights a week.
Take the dog for a walk.
Babysit the kids.
Offer to do a specific chore eg the vacuuming.
Do some baking.
Do the lawns for either the person with cancer, or at the caregiver's home.
Spend an hour weeding a garden.
Ways to encourage or thank the caregiver:
Send text messages telling them they're doing a great job.
Offer to step in as temporary caregiver for an afternoon or day so the main caregiver can have a break.
Send a hand-written card to the caregiver.
Give them a petrol voucher/MTA gift voucher as they'll likely be doing a lot of extra driving.
Give a massage voucher - get a couple of friends to split the cost and buy the voucher.
Drop off a magazine.
Made a goodie bag with chocolate and a magazine.
Send a small gift hamper. There's lots of gift hamper/gift basket companies to choose from that will make and send a gift for you.
Please note: I am in no way an authority on cancer or caregiving. I have lost relatives and friends to cancer and know many of my friends who have lost one or even both parents to cancer.
I hope the above information is useful. Please feel free to post more suggestions or give feedback about your own experience in the comments below.