A blood cancer diagnosis is not only overwhelming for a patient, but also for his or her loved ones. Oftentimes family and friends are eager to help but unsure how to go about it.
These devoted companions take on a load of responsibility. Nearly one-third (32%) of caregivers spend ≥41 hours every week providing care for their loved ones.1 In fact, the average caregiver spends 13 days each month performing tasks including housekeeping, laundry, shopping, food preparation, transportation, and giving medication.2
This Blood Cancer Awareness Month, we’re putting the focus on these often overlooked individuals, serving up practical advice you can pass along to a patient’s support group. Be sure to share these 8 tips:
1. Build a Team
It can be difficult for a patient to keep each family member and friend in the loop on his or her treatment. To alleviate the patient’s burden, recommend that his or her support team set up a phone or email update system. One person can speak to the patient and then relay news to the rest of the group.
2. Offer Assistance
Some patients hesitate to ask for help because they’ve never had to before. Encourage the patient’s loved ones to offer assistance with everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, laundry, babysitting, driving the kids to and from school, and caring for pets. It’s also recommended to put a plan in place for paying bills.
3. Ask Prior to Visiting
Many patients desire company but sometimes don’t feel up to it. Suggest to the patient’s support group that they ask before paying a visit. Blood cancer is unpredictable and the only way to know how a patient will feel about having company is to ask.
4. Keep the Patient Active
Exercise may not be atop the to-do list for most blood cancer patients, but it’s important to encourage it anyway. Exercise can keep the patient strong and motivated. Recommend implementing an exercise routine such as going for a walk every morning.
5. Help Manage Side Effects
Caregivers can play an instrumental role in managing a patient’s side effects. One common side effect of chemotherapy is loss of appetite. Encourage the patient’s support group to ensure the patient eats enough by suggesting small meals throughout the day instead of big ones that might induce nausea.
6. Plan for Extended Hospital Stays
Patients undergoing chemotherapy are often hospitalized for prolonged periods of time. Caregivers can help their loved one feel more at home by bringing pictures of family and friends, books, music, games, snacks, and sentimental items.
7. Offer Continued Support
Remind the patient’s loved ones that support is necessary throughout treatment, not just at the beginning. It can be difficult to sustain frequent visits, so recommend coordinating a visiting schedule with other family and friends. That way the patient won’t feel as if support is waning as time goes on.
8. Take Care of Yourself
The better physical and emotional shape the patient’s caregiver is in, the better care the patient will receive. Remind the patient’s loved ones to eat well, get sleep, exercise, and partake in hobbies so they can stay refreshed.
The family and friends of patients diagnosed with blood cancer are often thrust into a role they hadn’t or couldn’t prepare for. Take a moment to share these practical tips and you’ll help them better navigate the process and provide the best care possible.