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Patient tips From a daughter and cancer caregiver: How I found balance in both roles

From a daughter and cancer caregiver: How I found balance in both roles

When Sheila M. was diagnosed with breast cancer, her daughter Kadeah T. was right by her mom’s side. Through treatments, side effects, second opinions and survivorship, Kadeah served as her mom’s pillar of support and primary caregiver. Here, Kadeah shares the advice she’d give other caregivers.

  1. Get organized. After a diagnosis, some patients immediately think about all the housekeeping items they need to get in order (finances, wills, disability, etc.). As a caregiver, you need to do the same. Caregivers often have the immediate new responsibility that stretches beyond driving someone to appointments. You may be overseeing household responsibilities and bills, too.
  2. Take stock of your financial health. If you don’t already have a manageable monthly budget, savings accounts or a support system behind you, it can get tough to be a full-time caregiver financially. I didn’t realize how much travel, gas, car maintenance and medical bills we were going to accumulate. Reach out to friends, family, your home church or a local organization for financial support if you need it. My mom and I were truly blessed by our church, my family, and my twin’s Marine recruiters, each of whom gave donations that allowed us to stay focused on fighting cancer. I can’t thank them enough. It meant the world.
  3. Lean into your faith. We leaned on our faith and felt like God delivered in our time of need. We cried very thankful tears many times.
  4. Find a schedule that works for you and the person you’re supporting. Your schedule most likely is going to look different than it did in the past. There were three big keys to our success. First: When I woke up and got ready for the day, I got my mom ready for the day with me. No, she’s not a baby, but I felt like the structure helped us both. Second: Take advantage of any down time when the person you’re supporting is resting or in between appointments to clean up your living space (a hotel, hospital room, relative’s house, etc.). Lastly: When they sleep, you sleep!
  5. Practice patience. Being a caregiver means a lot of waiting. Waiting on answers. Waiting on doctors. Waiting to be checked in. Waiting for prescriptions. Waiting for lab results. Remember that your doctors and nurses are doing the best they can. You’re not the only one waiting, so be kind.
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  6. Be present mentally and physically. Don’t make the person you’re supporting feel like they’re wasting your time. Try to find activities in between all the waiting. Assemble a puzzle, knit, play a board game together, etc. Try to use that time as a chance to connect.
  7. Carve out time away from the hospital. You both need time away from the hospital and doctor’s offices. Save yourselves one day a week to still go out and do something within your/their physical and financial capabilities. Seriously, hit the reset button every week. The weeks for patients and caregivers may run together and become exhausting. Getting out is not only good for you, but it also gives the patient a feeling of being alive and not a pin cushion!
  8. Remember you need mental breaks, too. Being a caregiver is hard and exhausting at times. Remember it’s OK to tap someone else in and step away. Don’t be too proud to say you need help as a caregiver. It takes a village.

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  9. Take advantage of technology. Use your phone and all the helpful apps to their full capacity. I downloaded apps for shopping, tips, anxiety management and much more.
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