In the beginning, there may be a lot of support from friends. The caregiver may be able to continue working and keep up work relationships. When cancer care continues for a long time, the caregiver may need to stop working and friends may call or visit less often. Caregivers can find support in other places, such as caregiver groups and cancer organizations, where they can talk with other families. Some caregivers find it helpful to join a support group or talk to a counselor, psychologist, or other mental health professional. Others also find it helpful to turn to a leader in their faith or spiritual community.
There are many financial costs of cancer. Families must pay insurance deductibles, copayments, and for services that are not covered by insurance, such as transportation and home care help. Some caregivers give up their jobs and income so they can stay home with the patient, which makes it harder to pay for everything.
Caregivers who work may have less distress if they are able to take leave from work under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA applies to businesses with at least 50 employees. It allows employees to take time off from work for their own illness or a relative's serious medical condition without losing their jobs or benefits. Caregivers may take up to 12 weeks of leave.
Feelings of spiritual well-being may help lower the caregiver's stress. Keeping faith and finding meaning and hope have been shown to decrease the effect of caregiving stress on mental health. Spiritual well-being may help some caregivers be more hopeful, find meaning in the cancer experience, and be more accepting of what is. See the PDQ summary on Spirituality in Cancer Care for more information about spirituality and religion in cancer care.
Rewards of Caregiving
Caregivers become caregivers for many different reasons. Some feel it is natural to care for someone they love. Sometimes there are practical reasons, such as no insurance or money to pay for other help. Whatever the reasons, giving care and support during cancer isn't easy, yet many caregivers find something positive from it.
Caring for a person with cancer causes many caregivers to look at life in new ways. They think about the purpose of life and they often focus on what they value most. For some caregivers, looking for meaning is a way to cope.
Some caregivers will have the following rewards:
- Find they can be strong during bad times.
- Have a better sense of self-worth or personal growth.
- Feel closer to the cancer patient.
Getting support from health care professionals may help caregivers find more positive rewards.