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Preparation and Support for NSCLC Caregivers

Medically reviewed by Christina Chun, MPH on August 10, 2017Written by Kristeen Cherney on August 10, 2017
lung cancer

As a caregiver for someone with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), you play one of the most important roles in your loved one’s life. Not only are you there emotionally for the long haul, but your role as a caregiver also puts you in charge of day-to-day tasks. On top of all that, you’ll still need to manage to take care of yourself too.

Taking in all of your newfound responsibilities can be stressful at first. Identifying the major steps in caregiving can help keep you organized.

Approach NSCLC treatment as a team

Caring for someone with NSCLC often entails being involved with 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
  • making sure your loved one takes any recommended and prescribed medications
  • helping your loved one quit smoking if they smoke

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

Provide physical assistance

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.

The key is to let your loved one know that 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.

Offer emotional support

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. Take your loved one out on walks. Encourage them to get together with their friends if they feel up to it. If your loved one is more comfortable indoors, offer to arrange a small get-together at home. Over time, your loved one may experience a boost in their mood. Plus, you may also benefit from being around other people too.

Help out with finances

Aside from the daily tasks you’ll help with, your loved one may also need you to assist them with broader tasks like finances. This not only includes money management, but also planning for possible end-of-life care.

Depending on the stage of NSCLC your loved one is at, they may no longer be able to make decisions on their own. You may need to consult with both a financial advisor and an attorney for help.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself

Caregiving is a great sacrifice, and it’s easy to get caught up in making sure all of your loved one’s needs are met. You may even end up neglecting your own needs. You might skip meals from time to time, neglect your own medical care, or even withdraw from activities you once enjoyed because you don’t have enough 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 not only put you at a disadvantage, but also affect your caregiving abilities.

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

  • Set a timer for your own meals. This ensures that you won’t forget to eat.
  • Accept additional help from friends and family. While your friends or family may not know your loved one as well as you, there are tasks that you can delegate, such as cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping. Delegating such seemingly minute tasks can free up more time and stress than you might realize.
  • Connect with a friend or family member every day. 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 also boosting your mood.
  • Exercise daily. Even a short walk or yoga stretches can make a difference.
  • Create your own space. This can be a room of your own to read and relax in, or even a portion of a larger space in your home that you can call your own. Picture this space as your own personal retreat that you can do whatever you’d like in.

Explore professional support

While support groups are commonly discussed as therapeutic options for those with NSCLC, there are options available for caregivers too. You may find it helpful to connect with other caregivers who are going through similar experiences. These connections can be made in online groups, as well as traditional in-person meetings. You may even find one-on-one support with a therapist helpful. The key is to make sure your voice is heard and that your struggles are validated.

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