caregiver with a patient in wheelchair

Before Burnout Occurs: Cancer Caregivers Need Support, Too

People whose lives have been affected by cancer are likely to become cancer advocates who spread positivity and empowerment among other patients and caregivers. Advocates help in various ways, ranging from raising public awareness about the disease to raising funds to support patients.

As important as it is to let cancer patients know that somebody supports them, however, they are not the only ones affected by their condition. It’s time to care for their caregivers, too.

How it Happens

Cancer caregivers play a significant role in the treatment of a patient. More often than not, spouses or immediate family members step up to the plate and take on the role without proper education or preparation. As such, they may also suffer from physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion.

Caregiver burnout may occur when an individual devotes all their time and energy into caring for the patient, forgetting that they should also take care of themselves. It may occur when they have been dealing with long-term stress and feel overwhelmed about the constant demands of the role.

As a result, the caregiver may experience the following:

  • Feeling exhausted all the time
  • Feeling irritated or impatient
  • Getting sick more than usual
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Losing or gaining appetite
  • Losing interest in things they enjoy
  • Withdrawing from people, especially loved ones

Caregiver burnout may also result in anxiety disorders and depression.

A systematic review and meta-analysis of data from 21,149 cancer caregivers showed a considerably high prevalence of the two conditions among caregivers — depression and anxiety affected 42.30 percent and 46.55 percent, respectively, of the individuals appraised in the studies. On a related note, their quality of life is low.

Support the Main Source of Support

All cancer caregivers need support to prevent burnout, anxiety, and depression. These individuals need to let out their stress and frustration so that they can recharge their mind and body.

Here are different ways to care for the caregivers:

  • Let them unload their feelings. If talking to someone would ease their load, be that outlet.
  • Encourage them to write about their experiences in a journal, especially if they do not feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and emotions out loud.
  • Remind them to make time for themselves, whether it is to relax or connect with friends. Remind them to take care of their health, too, and stay updated with their medical needs.

It is important to make the caregiver’s environment as normal as possible so that they have a sense of stability in the middle of the challenge that they are experiencing.

Cancer Caregiving is Not Entirely Negative

caregiver with a child patient in a hospital room

Role confusion, unrealistic expectations, and unreasonable demands may lead to cancer caregiver burnout. But it is not all negative. Serving a loved one at their most trying time can make an individual stronger. The situation also strengthens the bond of the entire family.

The caregiver is not the only one responsible for the patient. Cancer can be a family affair; it is important to remind the main caregiver that their struggles are valid and that you are there to support them as much as you care about the patient’s wellbeing.

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