In addition to taking care of the physical needs of the patient, as a caregiver you should also be ready to attend to the emotional and psychological needs of your loved one. When emotional and psychological issues are not addressed, they can reduce the patient’s quality of life, impair social relationships, increase the rehabilitation time, and affect adherence to treatment. These problems are common—about 50% of patients with cancer experience psychiatric problems, including severe emotional distress. Some signs of more serious distress in the patient are outlined by the American Cancer Society, which can be viewed by clicking here.
A common concern of cancer patients is fear of abandonment. As a caregiver, it is important to reassure your loved one s/he is not alone in this journey. Patients who believe their personal support system is inadequate are more likely to experience emotional problems and more physical symptoms. Compassion and support can have a positive effect on the patient’s outlook.
As a caregiver, you can help provide a sense of belonging to your loved one by making them feel valued. S/he should be reassured that they are still a contributor to the family and should be involved in normal family activities. Additionally, being able to contribute to what the family needs can be helpful for their self-esteem and help your loved one feel more like themselves by giving them a sense of control.
Cancer therapies can be expensive. Patients need to be aware of the total costs of the medications, which can differ depending on insurance situations. As a caregiver, you can help navigate these issues.
For patients with commercial insurances, s/he generally can receive co-pay assistance from the drug manufacturer. If your loved one has insurance through a federal or state insurance program, s/he can’t receive financial assistance from the drug manufacturer, however, s/he may be eligible for co-pay assistance from an independent charitable organization. If your loved one is not insured, s/he may be eligible for free medications through drug manufacturers, charitable organizations, or designated hospitals, depending on income. See the specific information from the manufacturers listed under FINANCIAL RESOURCES in the resources section of this website:
Other financial considerations include lost income, both for the caregiver and your loved one. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. For more information about the Family and Medical Leave act, please visit the official government by clicking here.
For a small subset of patients with NMSC, the disease can be debilitating and even life-threatening. While the oncology team is working to achieve the best outcome from therapy, it’s impossible to predict if, and when, things may not go as hoped. Your loved one may want to discuss different scenarios to make sure his/her wishes are met as much as possible during the cancer journey. Advanced planning can include everything from choosing the healthcare proxy, to making an advanced directive, to addressing a will, to assessing under what circumstances your loved one would want to withdraw care and move on to hospice. It’s important to encourage your loved one to do this planning when s/he is feeling well. This subject can be touchy, particularly if the caregiver is in the will. However, if this type of planning is delayed, your loved one may not be well enough to make the decisions thoughtfully. If your loved one doesn’t have a chance to do any planning at all, there can be unnecessary additional stress and confusion for everyone involved.