The Caregiver - Taking Care of Your Loved One

Part I: Anxiety

Severe anxiety makes a mesathelioma patient's life worse, and high anxiety can shorten lives.

Anxiety is a normal reaction to cancer, and there are many periods of the cancer experience during which anxiety levels may peak. These stressful times include tests, waiting for test results, receiving a diagnosis of cancer, undergoing cancer treatment, or anticipating a recurrence of cancer. Anxiety associated with cancer may increase feelings of pain, upset sleep patterns, and cause physical symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

A patient may become more anxious as mesathelioma spreads or treatment becomes more intense. Patients can often reduce their anxiety by learning more about their cancer and the treatment they can expect to receive. Here caretakers can help immensely by seeking out objective information about the cancer and treatment from the doctor and from other sources. Confronting the unknown doesn't make the fear disappear, but it can reduce the anxiety.

Caretakers should be aware that even in the most severe cases, the anxiety cancer patients experience is not all due to fear of death. There is also fear of pain, of depending on others, and disappointment in letting others down. The medical professionals, along with the patients family and friends, should be aware of these fears and know that they can take actions to alleviate them.

Tips for Helping Cancer Patients
  • Don't avoid him or her. Be a friend, the one you've always been.
  • Treat the person like you always have.
  • Touch him or her. A simple squeeze of the hand can go a long way.
  • Take the person out for a pleasure trip.
  • Offer to help with shopping.
  • Visit.
  • Help the family of the cancer patient, attending to their psychic needs as well.
  • Talk about the future. Give hope.
  • Help with household chores - cleaing the house, getting the oil changed in the car.
  • Bring a positive attitude.
  • Offer to provide rides to the doctor, the hospital, or somewhere fun.
  • Talk about what's happening in the world.
  • Don't tell the patient not to worry

Part II: Effect on Family and Friends

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, it affects the whole family. Wives, husbands, children, brothers and sisters - these people can all can go through the same cycle of anxiety and acceptance.

A cancer diagnosis affects not just the patient but the entire family and larger circle of friends and coworkers. You want to be strong for your loved one with cancer, but that doesn't mean you don't need to express your own fears, anxieties, and even anger

Many families stricken with cancer find a professional counselor useful. It is not a sign of weakness to search out professional help. Your family has probably never encountered cancer before, and a counselor can probably help. Counselors have worked with other families and may be able to guide your's to a way to manage this situation.

Doctors, nurses, clergy, and friends can all be sources of recommendations for counselors. When choosing a counselor, be sure to inquire about fees and estimated time.

Many cities also have support groups where people with cancer meet and talk about living with the disease.

Part III: Depression

Like other major events, cancer's emotional impact differs from person to person. People who face a diagnosis of cancer will experience different levels of stress and emotional upset. Fear of death, interruption of life plans, changes in body image and self-esteem, changes in the social role and lifestyle, and money and legal concerns are important issues in the life of any person with cancer. Everyone experiences sadness and grief periodically throughout diagnosis, treatment, and survival of cancer.

Some people go beyond normal worrying and sadness and get serious clinical depression. Experts estimate that about 25% of people with cancer get major depression. Only a doctor can diagnose clinical depression, but friends and family should be aware of the possibility and alert health care professionals if they think there is a problem. There are many possible treatments for depression, and treating it should be thought of as part of taking care of the whole patient. It's wrong to think of mental health being unimportant in a person with cancer.

Sometimes friends and family may notice the signs of depression better and sooner than a doctor. If you suspect your loved one is clinically depressed, mention it to a health care professional. Your main doctor may refer the patient to a psychiatrist or psychologist for evaluation of his or her emotional state.

One of the main sources of depression in cancer patients is the loss of control over their own bodies. This has been one of the driving forces behind the hospice movement and right-to-die issues. However, caretakers must be careful that they do not implicitly give the patient permission to commit suicide. Suicide rates are significantly higher among cancer patients than in the general population. Overdosing with pain killers and sedatives is the most common method of suicide by cancer patients. Patients with the desire to die should be carefully evaluated and treated for depression.

Several psychiatric therapies have been found to be beneficial for the treatment of depression related to cancer. Major depression may be treated with a combination of counseling and medications, such as antidepressants. These therapies are often used in combination and include crisis intervention, psychotherapy, and thought/behavior techniques. Talking with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or clergy member also helps some people.

Cancer support groups may also be helpful for addressing depression. Support groups have been shown to improve mood, encourage the development of coping skills, improve quality of life, and improve immune response.

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