Saturday, April 2, 2011


Is there a difference in the type of caregiving you give to cancer patients? There can be. A lung cancer patient will probably have very different needs than a breast cancer patient, especially if the disease advances. A bone cancer patient will probably experience the disease differently than a blood cancer patient. An ovarian cancer patient's particulars will likely be different from a prostrate cancer patient's. And so it goes on.

Why do caregivers need to know there are different care needs for cancer patients? Caregiving is never a one-size-fits-all situation. How a disease changes a body depends on the organs affected, and if you don't understand that progression, you may find yourself and your loved one frustrated by the unexpected difficulties you face.

It's always important for a caregiver to understand the disease that a loved one is facing. The more you educate yourself, the greater your opportunities to help your loved one. Brain tumors can make life very difficult for both patients and caregivers, especially if the tumors interfere with physical and neurological function. Sometimes the cognitive impairment of a brain tumor patient can lead to greater isolation for his or her caregiver. When patients are using steroids to cope with symptoms, the problems can increase, resulting in mood and personality changes, insomnia, atrophying of leg muscles, and even an increase in appetite. This can create a greater burden on the caregivers of brain cancer patients.

The more you understand about how the cancer will affect your loved one, the better able you will be to handle the responsibilities of being the caregiver. Perhaps the most important thing for you to understand is that you really do need a great deal of support during this family crisis. The greater your resources for coping with the specific needs of a brain cancer patient, the better your ability to handle the increased burden of caregiving duties. Not all patients will have the same needs, but if you have a general understanding of the likely changes for a brain cancer patient, you will be better able to prepare yourself for these changes as they occur. Sometimes the caregiver is more aware than the patient, and this can add to the stress and distress levels you may experience.

Caregiving can exhaust your physical, mental, and emotional reserves over time. The greater the physical, mental, and emotional needs of your loved one, the less time you have for yourself. You can lose yourself in caregiving in ways that make it difficult for you to maintain yourself and your overall health, because you are constantly providing care for your loved one. If you understand that caregiving is likely to change over time, as the brain tumor changes your loved one, you can build the kind of support you need to get through the experience.

Sometimes the hardest thing for caregivers to understand is that there will come a time when, no matter how great a caregiver you are, you will need the help of family, friends, and even health care providers to do the job. The responsibilities become more than one person can handle because of how the disease affects your loved one. Accepting this reality through educating yourself about the disease and its likely progression allows you to put in place the support you are going to need before you need it. Respite care is important for every family caregiver, regardless of the disease your loved one is facing, but when the disease creates an intense need for care, it is even more critical that you get out on a regular basis and take time for you. Sometimes you almost have to force yourself to do it, because you might feel you are letting your loved one down by leaving him or her with another person for a little while. Understanding the benefits of respite care can help you recognize that you need to recharge your batteries in ways that enable you to return to your duties.

If your loved one has a brain tumor, you owe it to yourself to find out as much as you can about the disease and ways to cope. Here is one resource that may help you to do that:

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