Caring for the Caregiver
26 July 2017 – Caregivers play an integral part in any cancer survivor’s journey, and in acknowledgement and recognition of the mammoth task and responsibility that falls on the shoulders of these individuals, CANSA has declared August 2017 CANSA Care Month, with special focus on Caregivers.
Most Caregivers don’t choose this role, but it is one that is suddenly thrown upon their shoulders when a family member, loved one or colleague becomes afflicted by this disease and urgently needs support and care. No first-time caregiver knows what to do as no journey with cancer is the same and there are no rules and regulations to follow, however CANSA is able to offer knowledge, information, support and encouragement whenever required.
Dominique Forbes-Rose is a caregiver to her mom who has Leukaemia and says this about caregiving; “In many ways it is a very lonely journey. It is just as traumatising for the carer, as for the cancer patient. You give so much of yourself to look after your loved one, you have no time to look after yourself. And with that, you don’t want to worry the patient about everything that you are taking care of behind the scenes, because they need to focus on getting healthy. It is probably the toughest mental wellness journey you can ever go through, and you need a support network to help you. I am so grateful that CANSA has a platform of support for us carers – it is so important to get that support.”
The wellbeing of every Caregiver is important but sometimes compassion fatigue sets in which results in the individual no longer caring for themselves at the expense of caring for someone else. Known as caregiver burnout, this condition is the culmination of stress, emotional exhaustion, de-personalisation and low self-esteem. A myriad of emotions transpire in the Caregiver’s role and according to CANSA it is essential that the fears and stresses are dealt with sooner rather than later.
CANSA’s Top Tips for Caregivers:
- Find support and talk to others who are in a similar situation. This can help you cope with common feelings of anger, guilt, isolation, fear, sadness, or anticipatory grief.
- Know when you are stressed and learn the signs of your stress that may include feeling exhausted, getting sick more often, sleeplessness, impatience, irritability and forgetfulness.
- Take time out and make time for yourself and others. Although a person with cancer has many needs that require your attention, just remember you do too, so spend time doing something you enjoy, with the people you love.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Be kind and patient with yourself and remember it’s normal to experience occasional bouts of anger or frustration, along with the guilt of having those feelings. Search for a positive way to deal with these feelings.
- Take care of yourself. Make time to exercise, eat healthy foods, stay hydrated, and get enough sleep.
- Stay positive. Having an optimistic attitude helps set the tone for everything you do and take on.
CANSA knows the importance of connecting caregivers with others walking a similar path. To this end we have a Facebook Support Group for caregivers of cancer patients. Please join our CANSA Caring for the Carers group and read our fact sheet for caregivers…
CANSA also offers support through counselling, support groups and training on how to support a patients. Contact your local CANSA Care Centre if you need face to face support.
CANSA offers a unique integrated service to the public and to all people affected by cancer. CANSA is a leading role-player in cancer research (more than R12 million spent annually) and the scientific findings and knowledge gained from our research are used to realign our health programmes, as well as strengthen our watchdog role to the greater benefit of the public.
Our health programmes comprise health and education campaigns; CANSA Care Centres that offer a wide range of care and support services to those affected by cancer; stoma and other clinical support and organisational management; medical equipment hire, as well as a toll-free line to offer information and support.
We also supply patient care and support in the form of 11 CANSA Care Homes in the main metropolitan areas for out-of-town cancer patients; a Wellness Centre based in Polokwane; and CANSA-TLC lodging for parents and guardians of children undergoing cancer treatment.