A caregiver's advice for dealing with cancer
Caregiver Roles & Challenges
Being a caregiver to a cancer patient comes with a lot of responsibilities. To help, we’ve put together information on many of the biggest challenges caregivers take on, including how to manage medications, communicate with your loved one’s medical team, deal with legal and financial issues and handle medical issues you may encounter.
Cancer treatment usually involves taking a lot of medicine. On top of drugs that attack the cancer, patients may take medications for pain, nausea, low blood counts and other treatment- or cancer-related symptoms. Some patients may take up to 20 pills a day. Keeping track of these medications can be a challenge. With some organization, you can make sure loved one is taking the right medication at the right time. Learn more about managing medications.
Taking care of a cancer patient
Cancer patients spend less time in the hospital and more at home than ever before. This means caregivers do jobs that used to be handled only by trained health care professionals. To help, MD Anderson offers information on managing common cancer symptoms and performing basic medical tasks at home.
- Constipation: Prevention & self-help for severe constipation
- Pain Management
- Nutrition, including loss of appetite
Communicating with the health care team
Many cancer patients need help talking with their care providers. Sometimes it’s because of age, sometimes because of illness. In these cases, the caregiver steps in to help listen, ask questions and let the team know how the patient is doing. Here are some simple steps care providers can take to make these conversations as effective as possible:
Try to keep good notes of your appointments from the beginning. Most patients and caregivers are overwhelmed by what they’re going through. Keeping a record of what you’ve been told can help you cut down on miscommunication and remember what you need to do.
Ask questions. It’s the health care team’s job to help patients and loved ones understand the condition, its treatment and its side effects.
Don’t expect yourself to remember every question you have for the doctor. Write them down in a notebook and bring them to your appointments.
Use that same notebook to take notes during the appointment. It will be easier to go back to these notes than to call the hospital about something you forgot.
MD Anderson patients have access to the MyChart system. This online tool allows patients and caregivers to send secure messages directly to their care team. These messages are for non-emergency situations only.
Legal and financial issues
Handling the paperwork that comes with a cancer diagnosis is one of the biggest jobs a caregiver takes on. Our Caregiver Legal Issues page can help you find information on medical leave, insurance and financial assitance, and medical power of attorney.
Advance Care Planning
The Learning Center at MD Anderson has complied resources for caregivers.
7 myths about caregiving you shouldn’t believe
Leukemia caregiver: Why I personally support MD Anderson’s research
Caring for a parent with cancer? Follow this advice
Pediatric leukemia caregivers: Why we’re grateful for MD Anderson
Germinoma caregiver: Why I wrote an open thank you note to MD Anderson
How to support cancer patients during mental health struggles
Helping my daughter overcome childhood soft tissue sarcoma
5 things I learned as a leukemia caregiver
request an appointment online.