Monday, November 19, 2012

Holiday Tips for Cancer Caregivers

If you're a cancer caregiver, you know that cancer treatment sometimes knocks the stuffing out of your loved one. That doesn't mean you can't both enjoy the holidays. Plan ahead.

1. Know when your loved one is likely to be full of energy and when your loved one is likely to be dragging his or her wagon. Chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatments sometimes leave patients feeling exhausted, in pain, or otherwise debilitated. Don't let this deter you!

SOLUTION: Plan for fun -- If you're loved one is lively in the morning, why not start a new tradition? Brunch can be a tasty alternative to a big, heavy meal at the end of the day, when your loved one is ready for bed. Brunch often includes foods that are appealing to cancer patients and have a lot of calories to keep the weight on. You can even slip in foods that are easy to eat -- shakes, eggs, pancakes, waffles....

2. Know when your loved one is more vulnerable to germs, bacteria, and other things that can cause serious health threats -- the immune system is already working hard, so take precautions!

SOLUTION: Plan for a safe holiday -- Make hand sanitizer available for visitors, limit contact with crowds, and request people with the sniffles stay away (they can still offer video chats, phone calls, emails, and other greetings.)

If you go out and about, choose quieter, less-crowded restaurants, movie theaters, and other public spaces -- take in a matinee, instead of an evening movie; have dinner in a less hectic restaurant, where you and your loved one won't feel rushed; go for a scenic drive and take in the sights.

3. Know your own limits on how much energy you have to put into the holiday!

SOLUTION: Take as many shortcuts as you can to make it easier to entertain. Focus on having fun. Break the guilt cycle by reminding yourself that these shortcuts are because of your loved one's needs and your own limited energy. Next year, you can go back to the traditions.

4. Know what you will do if your loved one becomes too exhausted to enjoy the activity!

SOLUTION: Talk ahead of time and know how your loved one wants to handle any emergency. If you're at home, he or she may just want to go lie down for a bit, or may want to call it a day. If you're out somewhere, you may want to leave. If you're at another home and your loved one feels comfortable, you might suggest a short lie-down on a sofa or bed.

Be encouraging in presenting options. Choose the activities wisely. Surround your loved one with people who are supportive, patient, and understanding in how cancer and treatment affect your loved one. Always respect your loved one's decision on what to do. It's important that cancer patients feel empowered.

In the meantime, don't feel shortchanged -- be creative!

If you're having pizza on paper plates, choose a festive design. Easy clean-up. Add napkins and colorful cups, throw up some decorations and streamers, and it's all about the party, not the cancer.

Ask family and friends to help decorate the house, inside or out -- put on a pot of coffee, sit back, and watch the lights go up.

Let others pitch in -- make the meal pot luck and they can bring food and drink to share.

Focus on the conversations, the connections. That's what really matters.

Don't sweat the small stuff. Celebrate the good things you have in your life at this moment in time.

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