Supporting a loved one

When a friend or loved one has cancer you may wonder how best to help and support them. Similarly,  when taking care of a loved one with cancer, you may often wonder what kind of support you need to give to them. It is very important that you take care of your own well-being and don’t forget about your own needs. Taking care of yourself also makes you a better caregiver to your loved one because you will have the energy and support to help them and your work as a caregiver will not suffer.

Some important practices you should do to take care of yourself are:

Exercise -If you exercise everyday even if its only for 10 minutes it would benefit you by making your body stronger and taking away some of the stress you have.

Proper Rest and Nutrition-Getting a good night sleep and eating proper food will give you more energy to take care of your loved one and will help prevent you from getting sick.

Talk to Someone-Speaking to someone who was in the position you are is a good way to relate with someone about the experience you are going through and get good advice on how to handle and deal with different situations. There are a wide variety of support groups that you can also get in contact with that may be beneficial.

Speaking with a Counselor or Therapist-Speaking with a professional counselor or therapist can really benefit your well-being because they have been taught how to deal with these situations and to give you the best advice and support you need to take care of and support your loved one.

What should I say?

When a friend or loved one has cancer , sometimes we find it difficult to communicate around the subject.  At first you might feel unsure about what to say or do, being open and sensitive to how they are feeling is what most people need. Knowing you are there for them will really help.

Every person with cancer has a different experience so it’s important to remember this when speaking to them about their diagnosis.

Remember that they might not want to talk or think about their cancer all of the time. Try not to take it personally if they don’t want to talk about their cancer and respect their need for privacy or to have some quiet time. Having a normal conversation about everyday things and can sometimes be just as beneficial.

Try to learn about the diagnosis as it can be difficult for a cancer patient to have to speak about their illness over and over again.

Emotional support

  • Respect their need for privacy but let them know that if they want to talk you’ll be there to listen.
  • Offer support throughout the whole diagnosis – at the beginning, during and after treatment.
  • A friendly hand squeeze or hug can go a long way.
  • Ring them up, send a card, note or text to say you’re thinking of them.
  • Keep your relationship as normal and as balanced as possible – share a joke or laugh with them if/when appropriate.

Try not to:

  • Say you know how they feel – we can’t ever know exactly how someone with cancer feels.
  • Compare their situation to somebody else you know, each person’s experience with cancer is unique.
  • Take things personally if they seem angry or upset or don’t want to talk.

Practical support

  • Helping with everyday tasks such as  shopping, making dinners, or taking their children to and from school. This can help to free up some time for the cancer patient.
  • Drive them to the hospital for blood tests and appointments
  • Bring them lunch and stay for a chat
  • Ask before you visit, in case they are feeling too unwell
  • Something as small as a gift can sometimes help to break up a long day for  a patient. Make sure gifts are useful right away e.g soft socks, pyjamas or a robe, books etc.

Resources for those supporting a loved one:

Family Carers Ireland – 

  • Family carers, relatives, friends of carers and former carers can join Family Carers Ireland’s growing community of family carers for only €20 per year. Membership offers many benefits from a practical “In case of an emergency” contact to over 110 offers and discounts across Ireland’s best hotels, venues, leisure centres and lots more (all subject to local restrictions and Govt. guidelines re. C-19).
  • Their Help & Advice section on the website also houses information relating to Counselling, Pensions Guide, the Senior Alert Scheme (free personal alarms for the over 65’s) and you can access over 15 guest speakers who have appeared on our Carers’ Coffee Club over the past few months.