The family and loved ones of someone diagnosed with cancer are often as affected by the illness as the patient. In many ways, caregivers are the unsung heroes of the cancer journey. They often have many responsibilities that range from administering medical treatment, to providing emotional support, to performing countless practical tasks. And of course, this is all in addition to their “life as usual.”
Some caregivers may think that asking for help takes support away from the patient, or that by asking for help, they will be a burden to friends and loved ones. As a result, many stay quiet. And when caregivers stay quiet, they can get burned out, develop health problems and become less able to provide care.
There are many resources available to help manage caregiving. My Cancer Circle is a simple, free online tool that helps organize the community of people who want to help. It coordinates their efforts to participate and frees up the caregiver from having to directly ask others to participate. To learn more about this tool and its features, watch the My Cancer Circle video.
Many caregivers feel isolated. Joining a support group for caregivers helps many feel less alone, providing a safe, supportive environment for sharing feelings and discussing the challenges and rewards of being a caregiver. CancerCare is just one of the organizations that offers free professionally led telephone and online support groups for caregivers.
Some caregivers like the convenience and 24/7 access to on-line chat rooms and discussion boards that provide virtual communities for connecting on specific concerns, feelings and experiences. The Cancer Survivors Network offers one of the most popular on-line discussion boards with many active topics of conversation. Registration is free but is required in order to participate.
Though the discussion may not be specific to cancer, the Caregiver Action Network also has an online forum. Similarly, Caregiving.com is an active grassroots network that holds #carechat tweet chats in addition to offering podcasts, webinars, forums, groups, and other resources. Membership is free though registration is required. AARP is a wonderful source of information and support for caregivers and also hosts and on-line community for caregivers.
It’s not easy being a caregiver, and it can be overwhelming. Expressing feelings, sharing and receiving advice and learning about the experiences of others can provide a bit of stress relief and a sense of community that many people miss when they become caregivers.