Coping as a Caregiver

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2018

Caregiving is defined as everything that is done to assist someone due to that person’s disease. Caregivers may be family members or close friends and are differentiated from professional caregivers because they aren’t paid, and many are not trained for their new role. Many caregivers are an integral part of the cancer care team, and they help keep track of medications, side effects, and attend doctor’s appointments with their loved one. There are many different ways people may provide caregiving to a person with blood cancer, and many people may be a part of an individual’s caregiving team. In addition to the physical and practical care, caregivers offer emotional support to the person dealing with blood cancer.1,2

When a child is the one diagnosed with blood cancer, the whole family is often impacted. For the parents or primary caregivers, their role changes to include caregiving tasks for someone with cancer, which can be complex and overwhelming.3

Tasks for a blood cancer caregiver

Practical tasks

With blood cancer, caregiving may start gradually with practical tasks, such as:

  • Driving the person to medical or treatment appointments
  • Helping with household chores
  • Running errands
  • Preparing meals
  • Assisting with child care
  • Keeping others informed
  • Managing finances or insurance policies1,2

Medical tasks

Dealing with a blood cancer diagnosis and its treatment can be overwhelming and complex, and many caregivers help their loved one by helping with their medical care, including:

  • Attending doctor’s appointments and taking notes
  • Researching and learning about the particular type of cancer and potential treatment options
  • Keeping track of medications
  • Managing side effects1,2

Physical tasks

Treatment for blood cancer can cause fatigue and your loved one may need help with physical tasks, including help with bathing, dressing, or changing bandages. During extreme fatigue or weakness, patients may need physical support getting in and out of bed.1

Emotional tasks

Caregivers also help provide emotional support. They listen when their loved one needs to express their frustration or fears, and they provide encouragement and motivation.2

How to help children of different age groups cope with blood cancer

Children have different needs as they age that impact how they cope with treatment for blood cancer.

  • Less than 1 year of age: Babies respond to sensory comforts, like skin-to-skin contact, familiar sights and smells, and the sound of their parents’ voices talking or singing.
  • Children 1-3 years of age: Young children learn through seeing, touching, and playing, and like to make their own choices. Create choices of simple rewards after treatments like stickers or which book to read, and prepare children by explaining what to expect.
  • Children 3 to 5 years of age: Children of this age are becoming more aware and can benefit from seeing and touching machines or medical supplies before they are used. Comfort items like a favorite story or a stuffed animal can provide distraction and support.
  • Children 6 to 12 years of age: School-aged children can understand the treatment’s purpose is to help them get well, and it’s important for them to know what to expect. They may have many questions, which doctors or nurses can help answer.
  • Teenagers: Teenagers are often more focused on relationships with friends and their appearance, and they may feel strong emotions on how cancer is affecting their life. Help them connect with friends and other kids with cancer, and include teens in treatment discussions and choices.3

Self-care as a blood cancer caregiver

It’s critical that caregivers also take care of themselves, including getting proper rest, nutrition, and breaks from caregiving. Taking care of someone can be incredibly stressful and can cause emotional and physical fatigue, depression, and anxiety. While it may seem challenging, try to find time to do the things that you enjoy. Ask for help from family and friends, and seek professional help if you feel overwhelmed by depression or anxiety. Your loved ones' care team may be able to suggest resources (such as transportation services or adult day care facilities) in your area that can help to relieve you from some of your caregiving responsibilities, as well as support resources specifically intended for caregivers.3,4

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