River’s Edge Pharmacy

Tips On Being An Effective Cancer Caregiver

There’s no doubt that when a patient receives a cancer diagnosis, his/her life changes. Life doesn’t change only for the patient, though. The caregivers are affected. His/her partner, spouse, children, and friends also are impacted. For this reason, it’s important for caregivers to know the crucial role they play in getting their patients through the therapy process. As a caregiver you might be providing most if not all the following:

  • Coordinating the care
  • Seeking help from community resources
  • Obtaining information from medical staff
  • Sometimes managing financial aspects of treatment
  • Dealing with emotional responses to cancer treatment
  • Living with physical side effects of cancer treatment and sometimes long-term side effect

As a caregiver, you will encounter challenges. And the way you go about overcoming these challenges is what separates good caregivers from great caregivers. You are basically a problem solver, and your patient is relying on you to help him/her navigate through the complex process they are about to face.Many times, you will need to be optimistic, even when dealing with illnesses that are recurrent, overextending in time, or even when dealing with the end of life.


Below is list of 11 helpful tips to keep in mind when caring for patients – cancer patients in particular:

Ask questions. Learn as much as possible about what is happening and what may happen in the future. What is the type of cancer? Its symptoms? How long has the patient had the disease? What medications are currently being used? What side effects might the patient experience? What medications were used in the past, and how effective were they? Cancer is a broad term – each with its own level of severity, type of treatment, and side effects. Preparing yourself ahead of time will help you better understand the needs of your patient, and hopefully you won’t be caught off guard by any surprises.

Be an advocate for your patient(s).
Ask them what they expect of you, as well as what specific needs you can meet for them

Men and women communicate differently. Take this into consideration especially when dealing with special circumstances like cancer. Communicate clearly to your patients that cancer treatment will cause physical changes, and that these changes may result in psychological challenges .

Don’t expect to be perfect.
Accept mistakes as they happen, and take responsibility for them. But most importantly, be professional and sympathetic. Your compassion won’t go unnoticed.

Cancer patients are under a lot of stress – physical, emotional, and psychological stress. By empathizing with them, you will be able to assist them move effectively. They will also appreciate your effects as you try to see the situation from their perspective.

Keep all lines of communication open. This is not only important for the patient, but important when communicating with healthcare teams such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc. If you have any concerns pertaining to the therapy, you are better off acknowledging them immediately. After all, the relationship you have with your patient(s) will strengthen over time. Might as well have the relationship be as open as possible.

Keep detailed and updated records for all medications, dosages, date of treatments, side effects, any OTC medications, supplements, vitamins and any comment during the therapy. These documents should be easily referenced upon any follow-up, or if any change in treatment is needed.

Give your patients autonomy
when it comes to making decisions for themselves. Making too many decisions for them may give them a feeling of loss of control, and less in charge of their own life.

Keep calm and care on:
for all medications, dosages, date of treatments, side effects, any OTC medications, supplements, vitamins and any comment during the therapy. These documents should be easily referenced upon any follow-up, or if any change in treatment is needed.

  • If you feel overwhelmed, take your time to sort things out. Clear your mind and be emotionally stable. Try to gain back your peace before moving forward.
  • Don’t make important decisions while under the influence of anger!
  • Break large problems into smaller ones so you can tackle each one easily
  • Seek guidance from others who have been through similar experiences in the past.
  • Verbally discuss your anger, concerns, and fears with an expert before things get worse for you and destroy your inner peace. Perhaps a mentor or even a spiritual counselor.

Find time for yourself and take care of your own needs.
Don’t wait until you feel overwhelmed or stressed. Tackling problems earlier could save your energy and time.

Appreciate and value the task of patient care and getting them through the ordeal. Realize that you are your patient’s ambassador, and that you have the skills to make them get better. Knowing that you are armed with compassion, technical acumen, and experience in your field will help you cope with all the challenges you may face during their treatment.

Jennifer “Lizzie” MacDonald leads the PATH – Patient Healthcare and Wellness Program at River’s Edge Pharmacy. As a patient with multiple chronic conditions, Lizzie has first-hand experience with navigating the complex health system.

Throughout her journey, she has become impassioned with sharing her knowledge and serving as an ambassador for patient independence, wellness, and recovery. This not only lead to patients’ relief and comfort, it has provided an opportunity for doctors to utilize a patient advocate for more effective and time-saving care in their practices.

Lizzie is an outspoken supporter of creating community through support groups as well as through the invaluable connection of one-on-one interactions for patients who are managing chronic/complex illnesses. Through her efforts, she has emboldened patients to share their ideas, goals, and triumphs, as well as live life to the fullest, regardless of their condition(s).

Lizzie is also a contributing author to River’s Edge Pharmacy’s News and Articles

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