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What To Do As A Caregiver for A Cancer Patient

This post has been verified by Ali Nowroozi

Often the responsibility of taking care of the patient lies within those closest to them, as such you may be wondering what to do as a caregiver for a cancer patient. Cancer not only affects the patient but also those around them.

Particularly caregivers who play a crucial role in providing physical, emotional, and practical support. As a caregiver, it’s essential to understand your responsibilities and how to navigate the challenges that come with caring for someone with cancer.

What is a Caregiver?

A caregiver is someone who takes on the responsibility of supporting the patient with daily tasks during their stay at the hospital or home. The caregiver ensures the patient takes their medication on time, walks them to the toilet if they need support walking, helps them eat, and presses the nurse call button if the patient requires help with issues related to medical equipment. Along with other tasks that the patient needs help with. During the treatment, the patient may be too sedated or too weak to complete such tasks and this is where a caregiver comes in.

Understanding the Role of a Caregiver

However, being a caregiver goes beyond just assisting with daily tasks. It involves providing emotional support, advocating for the patient, managing medical appointments, and ensuring the patient’s overall well-being.

caring hand supporting patient in hospital


Practical Assistance

holding hand in support

Helping with Daily Activities

Assist the patient with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, and meal preparation. Offer help without being intrusive.

Coordinating Medical Appointments

Keep track of medical appointments, tests, and treatments. Write down the timing of the medications of the patient or set up alarms to help you remember. Accompany the patient to appointments if needed, take notes, and ask questions to ensure clarity regarding their care plan.

What To Bring To The Hospital As A Caregiver For A Cancer Patient

  • As a caregiver, you must ensure all medication that the patient needs is brought with you to the hospital.
  • Extra underwear, and clothes for the patient in case the stay is prolonged. We recommend this even if the plan is to stay for 1-2 days, as the stay can be prolonged due to unforeseen medical circumstances.
  • Depending on dietary restrictions you may want to bring snacks for yourself and the patient.
  • Extra pillows if needed – most hospitals provide a pillow for the patient and the inpatient. We highly recommend a gentle sleep hat to help the patient sleep more comfortably since they are vulnerable to temperature.
  • If conventional pillows don’t provide enough comfort you can learn more about pillows designed for cancer patients in the linked article.
  • Tea, instant coffee, french press. Most hospitals have hot and cold water dispensers.
  • Books to read (Related article: How to pass time during chemotherapy)

Emotional Support

Managing Emotions

Caring for a cancer patient can evoke a range of emotions, including fear, sadness, and frustration. It’s essential to acknowledge and process these emotions while finding healthy outlets for expression.

Encouraging Open Communication

Maintaining open and honest communication with the patient allows them to express their feelings and concerns freely. Encourage them to share their thoughts while offering reassurance and empathy. Keep in mind you don’t have to say comforting words all the time, some patients just want to be heard.

Don’t Neglect Your Own Well-Being

Importance of Self-Care for Caregivers

Remember to take care of your own well-being. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation now and then, and don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or support groups.

Seek Support from Others

Don’t hesitate to lean on others for support when needed. Accept help with tasks or caregiving responsibilities, allowing you to recharge and maintain your own health.

Maintain a Positive Environment

holding hands in support

Foster a Supportive Atmosphere

Foster a positive and supportive environment at home. Surround the patient with love, encouragement, and optimism, which can positively impact their emotional and physical well-being.

Finding Moments of Joy

Look for opportunities to create moments of joy and laughter amidst the challenges of cancer treatment. Celebrate milestones, share memories, and engage in activities that bring happiness to both you and the patient.

Adaptability and Flexibility

Dealing with Uncertainty

Cancer treatment can be unpredictable, requiring caregivers to adapt to changing circumstances. Stay flexible in your approach and be prepared to adjust plans as needed.

Being Flexible with Plans

Be understanding if plans need to change due to the patient’s health or treatment schedule. Flexibility allows you to accommodate unforeseen circumstances while maintaining a sense of stability.

Advocating for the Patient

Communicating with Healthcare Providers

Be the patient’s voice when communicating with healthcare providers. Ask questions, seek clarification, and ensure that the patient’s concerns and preferences are heard and respected.

Ensuring Patient’s Wishes are Respected

Advocate for the patient’s autonomy and dignity throughout their cancer journey.


Seeking Additional Help

Support Groups and Counseling

You can encourage the patient to participate in cancer support groups or seek counseling services to connect with others facing similar challenges. Emotional support from peers can provide comfort and understanding.

Respite Care Options

Explore respite care options to give yourself a break from caregiving duties. Respite care allows you to recharge and attend to your own needs while ensuring that the patient receives quality care.


Maintaining Hope and Positivity

Fostering a Sense of Hope

Hold onto hope and optimism throughout the caregiving journey while at the same time being realistic. The patient will know you are giving false hope and this will do more damage than good.

Celebrate Small Victories with them

Celebrate each milestone achieved, no matter how small. Whether it’s completing a round of treatment or enjoying a moment of laughter, acknowledge and cherish the victories along the way.


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