Caregivers for people with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) play a key role in their loved one’s life. Preparing for life as a caregiver and seeking outside support can help you navigate these important times.

Caregivers not only offer emotional support for someone else but are also often in charge of their physical day-to-day tasks, finances, and other considerations.

As a caregiver, taking in all your new responsibilities can be stressful at first. Identifying the major steps in caregiving can help keep you organized and help you create time to focus on your own well-being, too.

Caring for someone with NSCLC often means being involved with their cancer treatment. This can include:

  • driving your loved one to their appointments
  • accompanying your loved one when they meet with doctors, nurses, and lab technicians and taking notes that you both can review later
  • making sure your loved one takes any recommended and prescribed medications as directed
  • helping your loved one quit smoking if they smoke
  • keeping a list of doctor names and contact information to help with managing appointments and following up on any questions or concerns

You’ll also need to stay aware of your loved one’s symptoms for signs of further progression. Examples include breathing difficulties, coughing up blood, and unintentional weight loss.

As NSCLC progresses, day-to-day tasks may become increasingly challenging for your loved one. You might need to help them eat, bathe, and get dressed. They may also need assistance going to the bathroom and walking around.

Let your loved one know you’re there to help when they ask you to. Don’t assume that a cancer diagnosis automatically means your loved one has lost all independence. This can increase their feelings of depression and low self-worth.

Cancer creates an emotional roller coaster for both you and your loved one. This is perhaps especially true with NSCLC, as the outlook is often unpredictable. Your loved one will likely have their share of ups and downs. They may even become depressed.

Your role as a caregiver isn’t necessarily to try to cheer up your loved one or make them “happy” again. Instead, you can offer support by simply listening without judgment.

It’s also helpful to encourage as much socialization as possible. Go for walks with your loved one. Encourage them to get together with their friends if they feel up to it. If they are more comfortable indoors, offer to arrange a small get-together at home.

Your loved one may not always feel up to socializing, but sometimes they may enjoy it, and it might help them improve their mood.

Aside from the daily tasks you’ll help with, your loved one may need you to assist them with broader tasks like finances. This includes money management, insurance considerations, and planning for possible end-of-life care.

Depending on their stage of NSCLC, they may no longer be able to make decisions on their own. You may need to consult a financial advisor and an attorney for help.

You may feel mixed feelings about being a caregiver. Sometimes it may feel like a responsibility or duty for your loved one. Other times, it may feel overwhelming or like a sacrifice you’re making.

You may even end up neglecting your own needs. You might skip meals occasionally, put off medical care, or even withdraw from activities you once enjoyed because you lack time.

There’s much to the saying that you can’t take good care of others unless you take care of yourself first. Neglecting your own needs can put you at a disadvantage and hurt your caregiving abilities.

You can invest in some self-care with some of the following goals:

  • Plan set meal times: Set a reminder to eat at a certain time, if possible, so you don’t forget. Consider easy options you can make or obtain without too much effort, or try to plan your meals in advance if there’s a time when you have the energy to do so. And it may help to keep healthy snacks handy, like bananas or protein bars, so you’ll have something to eat even if other priorities arise.
  • Be open to additional help: While your friends or family may not know your loved one as well as you, consider asking them for help with tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping. Chances are, those around you want to help but aren’t sure how. Telling them exactly what you need can make it easier for everyone involved.
  • Connect with others: You may not have time for a lunch date, but a simple text exchange, phone call, or email can help you keep in touch while boosting your mood.
  • Exercise daily: Try to get some movement throughout the day, whether it’s while doing household chores, taking a short walk around the block, or running errands on foot.
  • Create space: This can mean having a room of your own to read and relax in or setting aside time to be alone to get some mental space and clarity.
  • Find an outlet for your feelings: As a caregiver, you may experience emotions like sorrow, anger, fear, anxiety, helplessness, or defeat. It’s OK to feel these things, and having a healthy outlet may help you process them. You could try journaling, talking about them with a friend, or connecting with a therapy helpline.

While support groups are commonly discussed as therapeutic options for those with NSCLC, options are available for caregivers, too. You may find it helpful to connect with other caregivers who are going through similar experiences.

Some online options include:

You can make connections with others in online groups and traditional in-person meetings. You may even find one-on-one support with a therapist helpful. The key is to ensure your voice is heard and your experiences are validated.

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