As a caregiver for an elderly parent, one of the most stressful and even frightening experiences that you can encounter is finding out that your loved one has cancer. This diagnosis can be overwhelming for your loved one, but also presents special challenges for you as his child and his caregiver. Finding ways to deal with the stress that can come with this diagnosis will help to protect your mental, emotional, physical, and cognitive health. You can then focus on supporting your loved one through his journey with this disease.
Use these tips to help you cope with caregiver stress after a cancer diagnosis:
• Get informed. When your parent is diagnosed, dedicate yourself to learning everything that you can about his disease and the options that he has. This includes understanding what stage of the disease he is at, what this means, and what the future of his experience with the disease might look like. Knowing everything that you can will help to make you feel less out of control and more confident as you give your parent love, support, and encouragement.
• Support his decisions. The disease itself is stressful, but having a conflict with your parent over the way that he wants to handle the disease can be even worse. You do not want this to be a source of anger and division between you. Instead, let go of your need to constantly be in control and instead support his own thoughts and decisions regarding his treatments and management.
• Find your own support. Your parent will need a considerable amount of support while he is going through his experience with cancer. This does not mean, however, that you should ignore your own emotional needs. You will have your own reaction to the diagnosis and it is important that you give yourself the opportunity to work through it. A caregiver support group can offer you a safe, encouraging space where you can learn from others who have gone through the same thing as you are. This helps you to feel less alone and gives you the opportunity to gain valuable advice.
• Rely on others. Regardless of the type of treatment or management that your aging parent selects for his journey with cancer, your care relationship has changed. The efforts that you put forth for him will need to change right along with it. This means that you will experience more pressures and demands that will increase your caregiver stress. This does not mean that you do not want to take care of your loved one or that you are not capable of handling it. It simply means that you will need to rely on others to help you take on these new demands with confidence. Rely on your partner, your siblings, your other family members, your friends, and even a home care provider to help you take on these care tasks. This will help you ensure that your parent gets the care that he needs while easing your stress and keeping you healthy and in control.