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The news that someone is suffering from cancer can be shattering. It not only affects the life of the patient but can also come as a rude jolt for the people who love and care about the patient.

The person who has been diagnosed with cancer has to be mentally very strong to face the situation. And he looks for this emotional and mental support from his immediate family members. Thus the role of the loved ones becomes very important. They not only have to come to the terms with this unfortunate situation themselves but have to take care of the patients emotional as well as physical needs too. It is indeed a tough situation to be in but one can prepare himself to deal with it with the help of the following guidelines:

It is important to come to terms with the condition and to accept it

It is normal not to be able to believe that your loved one is suffering from cancer. Therefore, it is perfectly okay if one wants to go for a second opinion. But one should be careful not to live in a state of constant denial. Once the diagnosis has been reliably confirmed, it is important for the caregiver to face her own fears and emotions and then encourage the patient so that treatment can begin at the earliest.

Prepare for the mood swings of the patient

Incidence of depression in cancer patients is about 25%. The patient tends to feel betrayed by his own body. There may be change in appetite, sleep problems, agitation, fatigue, feeling of worthlessness and even suicidal tendencies in some cases. Self image may be seriously compromised because of hair loss following chemotherapy and due to certain deforming surgeries. There may be bouts of emotional outbursts to vent their feelings. It is very important for the care giver to understand the mental makeup of the patient at this stage and to be sympathetic to the patient. Sometimes to be able to listen calmly to the patient becomes the greatest virtue. Besides being the shoulder to cry on, the caregiver has to help the patient regain his self confidence and encourage him to be independent and optimistic.

Gather as much information as possible about the disease

It is a good idea for the caregiver to accompany the patient to his appointments with the doctor. It helps the patient overcome his nervousness and the caregiver may chip in by adding some extra questions which the patient may forget. Never hesitate to ask questions as this may allay the patient’s anxiety. Know as much as possible about the disease from which your loved one is suffering to show that you care.

Learn to deal with the hard work involved

It is very important for the caregiver to take care of himself while taking care of the patient. Overwhelming concern about the patient’s wellbeing should not be at the cost of neglecting one’s own physical and mental needs. It is not advisable to skip meals, go sleepless or ignore exercising or other health concerns. Caregivers tend to feel exhausted, depressed and anxious and may suffer from sleep disorders, hypertension, depression and heart ailments, etc. It is important to realize that one will only be able to take good care of the patient when one is fit himself. One should be realistic of his own needs and should take time out for himself. Eat healthy and take adequate sleep and rest. It is necessary to keep exercising regularly. Go for walks, read newspapers or books you like to read, and indulge in some leisure activity like watching a movie, etc. Most importantly, do not feel guilty in indulging yourself once in a while. Do not keep your mind preoccupied with thoughts of disease all the time. Meet other people and understand that not all things are under your control. Do not hesitate to join a support group.

Know your limitations

Caring for a cancer patient night and day can be very stressful. It saps your energy and leaves you mentally and physically exhausted. It’s a round the clock job where apart from routine household tasks, the care giver also becomes a core member of the cancer management team, taking care of the psychological needs of the patient and providing medicines timely. This hardly leaves any personal time for the care giver, often leaving him a depressed and frustrated person. His own life is in complete disarray and opportunities at the work place also suffer. The care giver may be very close to the patient, but he should realize that neither can he wish away the disease nor can he do everything all by himself to improve the life quality of the patient. It is better to have a fair estimate of what you can do without jeopardizing your own physical, emotional and spiritual well being. Find out about the resources available to you from the health care team and take their support. Seek help to manage the harder parts of daily patient care. Never feel ashamed or hesitant to ask for help from other near and dear ones. They may be wanting to help you but were embarrassed to ask. Involve them in patient care. They would be delighted and the patient will also appreciate some change of company. Most important of all, never think yourself as selfish if you take out some time for yourself.

Derive satisfaction from what you are doing

Knowing that you are so useful to your loved one can be a matter of immense pride. Though demanding, it gives you an opportunity to show how much you love and care for the patient. Facing different crisis while providing care to a cancer patient opens up new dimensions of your personality of which you happen to be unaware. Helping your close one tide over the difficult times will fill you with a deep sense of achievement and commitment which in itself is very rewarding.

Don’t Hide Things from the Patient

Even though it’s a very bitter pill to swallow, the patient has a right to know what is wrong with his body so that he can make important decisions about his life. This news, when broken by a loved one becomes comparatively less harsh and is easier to believe.

Help the Patient find Support

However much you may empathize with the patient, he feels more reassured conversing with somebody who has underwent a similar situation. The caregiver should take the help of the concerned oncologist to find such a patient or he may look up for various support groups available online.