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Help for the Caregiver

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See the PDQ summary on Pain for more information.

Caregivers may also need information on other common side effects and symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue, drowsiness, and sleep problems—See the PDQ summaries on Fatigue and Sleep Disorders.
  • Nausea, vomiting, anorexia, and cachexia —See the PDQ summaries on Nausea and Vomiting and Nutrition in Cancer Care.
  • Anxiety, mood disorder, and depression —See the PDQ summaries on Adjustment to Cancer: Anxiety and Distress, and Depression.

Coping Skills

Caregivers can receive support from programs that teach them ways to cope with caregiving stress. These programs give information, improve caregiving skills, and help caregivers feel in control and more hopeful. Some programs train on one topic, such as teaching the caregiver how to solve problems or manage patient symptoms, like pain. Other programs train the caregiver in several areas of caregiving, and these types of programs may help caregivers feel better overall. Talk to a member of your health care team or call your local hospital to see if these programs are offered in your area.

One program called COPE (which stands for Creativity, Optimism, Planning, and Expert information) trains caregivers in how to solve difficult caregiving problems, make plans for their individual situations, and feel more positive. This program has been shown to decrease stress in some caregivers.

The Family Caregiver Cancer Education Program teaches caregivers how to manage symptoms, communicate better, manage roles, relationships, and finances, and take care of themselves. Caregivers have more confidence and feel they learned useful information after taking this program. Over time, they report feeling healthier.

Training in specific skills helps improve quality of life for many caregivers. Programs that offer caregiver training by nurses who visit the home have worked very well. These nurses prepare patients and caregivers for changes in the level of care, teach them communication skills, visit patients at home, and make sure care continues all through the different phases of treatment.

Counseling

Counseling helps caregivers deal with the emotions that come with the demands of caregiving. The health care team can recommend support groups or refer caregivers to mental health professionals. This kind of support may lessen anxiety and depression and help the caregiver feel more positive, more able to cope, and that they have control over the situation.

Family Meetings

When taking care of a cancer patient, family members need to work together. There may be problems and conflicts in some families, and the stress of caring for a relative with cancer can bring up old issues or make new ones. These conflicts may cause communication problems within the family and with the health care team. When there are conflicts like this, it may help to have family meetings with the health care team.

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