Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) affect more than the people who are diagnosed with them. This rare GI tract cancer can have an impact on family members, friends, and caregivers, too. During treatment for GIST, family and friends may have to help out with day-to-day responsibilities.
If you find yourself caring for someone with GIST, you may not think of yourself as a "caregiver." However, if you’re cooking meals, shopping, helping with dressing and bathing, and offering emotional support, you are considered a caregiver.
Caregiving can be a difficult and consuming job. It is easy to become isolated, and to forget about your own needs, when you're spending so much time doing things for your loved one.
The following resources offer caregivers a variety of supportive resources. You must remember to maintain your own health while taking care of someone else.
The Caregiver’s Job
When caring for someone with GIST -- or any other cancer -- several responsibilities may fall to you, including:
- Cooking and cleaning
- Running errands
- Helping the person get bathed, dressed, and take medicine
- Managing insurance issues and bills
- Driving to the doctor's office and other appointment
When you take the person with GIST to the doctor, here are a few questions to ask so you'll know what's expected of you:
- Where can I learn more about GIST and its treatment?
- What are the next steps in treatment?
- What medicines does he or she need to take?
- How do I give those medicines?
- What side effects might the treatment cause?
- For which side effects should I call you?
- How can I help my family member/friend with GIST feel better during treatment?
- What can I do to help manage his or her pain?
- Are there any local support groups or resources I should know about?
Help for the Caregiver
To make sure you don't burn out while caregiving:
- Take breaks. Set aside some time each day for you, Get out of the house regularly so as not to feel isolated and lonely.
- Say "no" when you need to, and ask for help. There are times when you can't do everything. Hire or enlist outside help if possible. The resources listed below can help point you in the right direction.
- Join a caregiver support group. Meeting with a group of people who are also caring for someone with a soft tissue sarcoma, or other disease, can make you feel less alone. At the support group, you can exchange ideas with other people, meet other caregivers, and learn tips to make caregiving tasks easier. Group support is an effective tool to help you cope more effectively.
- Take care of yourself. The person with GIST isn't the only one who needs a little TLC right now. You can't be an effective caregiver if you’re not well. Ensure that your health and well-being are maintained.
Here are a few resources to help in caring for the individual with gastrointestinal stromal tumors. Ask your doctor for more information on local support groups.
Family Caregiver Alliance
GIST Support International (GSI)
Life Raft Group
National Cancer Institute
National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN)
National Family Caregivers Association