Last updated: April 2023
When you think of encouragement, you may think of giving someone support and reassurance. This is definitely true and is needed in many cases when you are helping someone you care about through cancer. But you are not them. What you may do in a certain situation is not necessarily what they would do or want in their situation. Recently, I listened to something that said y=1. That means you (y) are the only you (1). There is no one like you and so the way you respond and feel is unique only to you. What works for one, may not work for someone else.
It is important that we keep this in mind as we try to help the person we care about as they go through this very difficult time. There is a saying that goes, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This may not be the exact quote, but you get the point. Instead of thinking like that, what if you changed your way of thinking to this - “Do unto others as they would like done unto them”. In other words, find out what they would like and proceed accordingly.
Learning to listen
The best thing anyone can do as a caregiver is to listen. So often we want to ‘fix’ whatever problem they are having, but maybe they don’t want it fixed, or perhaps it can’t be fixed. What then? Listen! It’s hard - I know as I tend to be a fixer myself, but I’ve been trying so to change my ways. Think about you. When you are speaking with someone about an issue, do you always want to hear their advice on the matter? Probably not.
Sometimes our friends want our advice and when they do, advise away! But when they don’t, it can put a wedge in your relationship. Be sure to think before you speak. Now is a very emotional time for them. Although you may mean what you say one way, it may be taken in a totally different way by them. Being a caregiver is a tough job, but you will get through this and be better for it!
Having patience is also a virtue you will have to practice. Whatever your needs are will have to be put on hold so you can help your loved one. You may have to change plans to take them to an appointment, make them a meal, or make them comfortable in another way. You may have to wake up in the middle of the night to take them to the emergency room or call their doctor and wait to see if they are admitted or coming home. This will be tough as their care is not all you have on your plate.
Have patience and know you are giving the best support you can. Everything you are doing will be appreciated and doing for others will make you feel good as well. This time will be hard for you in so many ways, but you can do it because you know how important your job is.
Making sure your assistance is needed
Always ask if someone would like your help or advice before taking the step of giving it. Sometimes they just need to vent. If you really think they could use your advice or help you could say something like, “I have an idea about that, would you like to hear it?” or “maybe I can help with that, would you mind?” They will appreciate the respect, and you will know where your limit is. If you don’t ask and just do, they may get offended and your feelings may get hurt if your help is not appreciated. It is always best to be sure your assistance is needed before you act.
Being a caregiver is a tough job, but it is appreciated more than you know. Encourage, but remember not to overstep. The job may not have a ton of rewards, but you will always feel good knowing you are doing your best to help the person you are caring for and care about. They may not be able to tell you right now, but they are glad you’re there. Keep your chin up and push forward. You will both get through this!
Wishing you health & happiness!
How do you feel about your support system?