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Cancer Health Center

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Family Caregivers in Cancer (PDQ®): Supportive care - Patient Information [NCI] - The Caregiver's Point of View


In addition to hands-on patient care, the caregiver may also do the following:

  • Be a companion to the patient.
  • Continue doing many of the patient's household duties.
  • Take care of medicines and meals.
  • Schedule doctor visits, plan travel to and from the visits, and go with the patient to them.
  • Arrange for home visits by therapists or other professionals.
  • Deal with medical emergencies.
  • Take care of insurance matters.
  • Work through the health care system for the patient.

Caregivers worry about how they'll be able to do all this and also take care of themselves. The caregiver sometimes has to give up social activities and miss work. This can all be very hard and very tiring in a physical and emotional way for both the caregiver and the patient. These demands can be especially hard on older caregivers.

After Treatment Ends

Some patients and caregivers expect life to go back to the way it was before the cancer was diagnosed and this may not happen. Caregiver stress may continue after the patient's treatment ends, as roles change once again. Some caregivers have problems adjusting for the first year after the end of treatment. Part of this is caused by worry that the cancer will come back. When the caregiver is the partner or spouse of the cancer survivor, there may be sexual problems, also. Studies have shown that these adjustment problems usually do not last long. Problems with adjusting that can last a long time include the following:

  • Problems in the relationship between the caregiver and the patient.
  • Poor communication between the caregiver and the patient.
  • Lack of social support.

At the End of Life

Caring for a patient at home at the end of life brings a new set of challenges for the caregiver. The patient depends even more on the caregiver for physical and emotional support. The patient's symptoms also may be more difficult to manage. The caregiver may feel distressed by these new challenges and by not being able to take part in activities and interests that are important to him or her. The caregiver may feel even more distressed if the patient goes into hospice care. Studies have shown that caregivers have a lower quality of life and poorer health when giving the patient end-of-life care than they do during active treatment.

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