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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Caregiver’s Guide to Supporting a Patient with Breast Cancer

By Jessica Deng

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time when education about breast cancer and early detection tests are vital so that women could take charge of their breast health. A breast cancer diagnosis presents affects all members of a person’s family and presents many challenges. Family members and caregivers are likely to have many questions as they care for a loved one battling cancer.The caregiver has a key role in the patient’s care and in most cases, the main (primary) caregiver is a spouse, partner, parent, or adult child. There are many ways to help and support a loved one or a patient with breast cancer. Today, we’ll be providing information on caring for someone with breast cancer and tips on caring for yourself as well.

  • Communicate with your loved one – if you’re unsure about something, ask. Express your feelings and listen when your loved one wants to talk. You don’t have to offer opinions or solutions, sometimes just lending a caring ear will suffice.
  • Be patient – coping with breast cancer can be frightening, painful, and very difficult. Be patient and kind with the person as they navigate their recovery.
  • Respect your loved one’s decisions – even if you are in a position of decision-making, remember that your patient, spouse, or partner is the one facing cancer and treatment. Decisions regarding care and life are ultimately up to your loved one to make. It’s also important to let your loved one decide how family and friends can help them cope throughout the treatment.
  • Offer to take responsibility for practical needs – your loved one’s cancer treatment will generate a lot of paperwork. You can help by offering to take care of important paperwork such as medical records, bills, or insurance claims.
  • Help your loved one feel good – breast cancer can cause people to feel self-conscious about physical changes caused by treatment. Encourage your loved one to learn about options for coping with physical changes and to try different solutions until your loved one is comfortable.
  • Take time to care for yourself – while caregiving is often rewarding, it can sometimes feel like a challenge. Plan a few moments to do something for yourself each day. It’s normal for a caregiver to feel helpless or angry sometimes. Allow yourself to experience and accept your feelings. If some of your emotions are too difficult to experience, speak with a professional counselor.
  • Consider respite care – respite care is used to describe short-term, temporary relief for those who are caring for loved ones who might otherwise need professional care. Respite is a short break from the exhausting challenges of being a caregiver. This helps keep family caregivers healthy and improves their sense of well-being.

As a caregiver, you have an important and unique role in helping a loved one through their cancer experience. You can care for your loved one with breast cancer in many ways, but you can only be effective if you also care for yourself and don’t burn out. LifeWorx provides a range of services from long-term care to companion care. Our care coordinators are equipped to provide you with solutions to meet your needs. Contact us today for more information.

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