For Cancer Care Partners: How to Access the Support You Need
Hi, I’m Isabella, and I recently completed my cancer treatment. I want to introduce you to two people who are essential to my care and well-being.
First, this is my husband, Rick. Through every stage of my cancer, he has been my support system and partner in my care.
And this is Ana, a social worker who we have both turned to for help when we needed support and resources.
As I know from firsthand experience, care partners are invaluable. Ana, what does it mean to be a care partner exactly?
A care partner – or a caregiver – can be anyone – such as a family member, friend, or loved one who you trust to help you make decisions about your health. There are many hats that care partners wear when caring for their loved one with cancer. Let’s review a few:
- Often, care partners are the patient’s main source of emotional and physical support and can be a true source of empowerment.
- They also frequently help with arranging and organizing appointments and care.
- And they navigate financial and insurance matters.
- Additionally, care partners have a key role in helping with communication. From taking notes before and during an appointment to asking questions to clarify difficult information, they are often tasked with speaking up for their loved one and advocating for the best care.
I’ve done all of the above! But I also have learned that it’s totally normal for care partners to feel overwhelmed.
Ana, what are some tips to help someone like me feel more in control and to play an active role in care decisions?
- First and foremost, educate yourself about your loved one’s diagnosis and treatment options, so you feel comfortable talking with their team and confident providing your input. Ask your healthcare team for credible resources to help you learn more.
- Write down questions ahead of time and take notes during the visit, so you can refer to them when needed.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to share your thoughts. You have an important role in decision-making alongside your loved one.
- And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, be an advocate for your loved one. Speak up if you need more information, time, or resources to make a decision – or, if you or your loved one aren’t happy about the way things are going.
That’s great advice. And, to be honest, there are times when it’s been difficult – emotionally and physically – to care for Isabella.
And there are also times when being in this role is very rewarding – knowing that I’m able to participate in Isabella’s care and decision-making gives me confidence and makes us both feel empowered.
Ana, what can care partners do to help balance their well-being with their loved one’s needs?
This is a great question, Rick.
- Remember, you are part of a team, and there are resources and support services to help you.
- Recognize that being a care partner is a hard job! It’s OK to need help and to ask for help. Ask your team for professional and volunteer services that can help. And, download the guide that accompanies this video to access a list of resources.
- Next, ask the team for financial resources that can help alleviate daily stress.
- It’s also essential for you to find time for yourself and to put it on the calendar, so it is a priority – don’t forget to take care of YOUR mind and body. Stay up to date on your own healthcare appointments and make time for exercise and stress-relieving practices.
- And if you are having a hard time coping emotionally, you can work with a mental health professional to help you identify any signs of depression and anxiety.
- Finally, find a support system that is there for YOU when you need it. Consider joining a support group for care partners. This can help you understand your role and help you feel more empowered.
Those are all great tips. I know my husband finds this sort of advice and support empowering. So, what did you learn? Please click this link to access learning questions to test your knowledge.
To learn more about shared decision-making and patient empowerment, watch the next video in this series.
Thanks for joining us!