Being a Caregiver
The caregivers are the ones who give the person with cancer physical and emotional care. Caregivers can be paid professionals with specific expertise, such as hospice physicians, nurses, social workers or home health aides. Oftentimes, however, caregivers are unpaid individuals who have a personal relationship to the patient, such as spouses, partners, family members, or close friends and are often a lifeline for the person with cancer. This is not an easy role but a critical one. Caregiving for someone with a serious illness is a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week job, and most caregivers cannot do it alone.
Fatigue is a real issue with pancreatic cancer caregivers. There’s a cycle between fatigue and depression and lack of sleep, which caregivers often face. Due to the aggressiveness of the disease, pancreatic cancer caregivers often resist dealing with their fatigue because they feel they need to be ‘all-present’ for the patient. This is not a healthy, cycle to start for you or for the loved one you are caring for.
Things you should know as a caregiver:
- You need to take care of yourself too.
- Caregiving is both physically and emotionally taxing. Find someone trustworthy who you can talk to about how you are feeling; who can remind you that you need to take care of yourself
- It is OK to have other people help you help your loved one. Having assistance offers the caregiver an opportunity to rest and to recharge, so that they can provide better care to the patient.
- You may want to consider reaching out to family, friends and other sources of support and accept offers of support.
- You should speak with a member of the treatment team to inquire about possible respite services that may be available.
- There are even some web sites that help caregivers develop support systems and avoid burnout.
- It is important for caregivers to find time and ways to get out: whether to attend a support group and share their experience with others in a similar situation, or simply to take a 20-minute walk.
- Realize there will be times that no matter how much you want to be by your loved one’s side, you just can’t get there. Don’t be hard on yourself.
- It can be exhausting for caregivers to provide ongoing verbal updates to individual family members and friends. To ease this stress, patients and caregivers may want to consider the use of a Web site.
A note on work and caregiving. Nearly three quarters of caregivers either work or have worked while providing care, and most have to make adjustments to their work life. Many have had to take a leave of absence from work to provide care and it is important to know that you do have workplace rights. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 permits eligible employees to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid, job protected leave during a 12-month period for specified reasons –including caring for a spouse, son, daughter or parent.