Caregivers for patients with lung cancer have a litany of responsibilities that may sometimes become overwhelming. However, there are resources – both online and in-person – that can help support and educate caregivers.
“Caregivers are extremely important in the survivorship of patients. They’re the unsung heroes, taking on many different roles and responsibilities,” Katie Brown, vice president of the Support and Survivorship programs at LUNGevity, said.
Brown knows first-hand the whirlwind of responsibilities that come with being a caregiver. She was a caregiver to her father who had a late-stage lung cancer diagnosis, while she was also a mother to a small child, working full-time and attending school part-time.
The day-to-day responsibilities of a caregiver of a loved one with cancer may vary for each individual, but most caregivers help with doctor appointments, household and financial responsibilities and physical aspects of the disease, all while offering emotional support. This can be time-consuming and sometimes emotionally draining, Brown said, emphasizing how important it is for caregivers to have outside support.
“If you know someone who is a caregiver, definitely make yourself available,” Brown said. “Keep offering to help, and remember to show up, whether it’s something so simple as lending an ear so he or she can vent or buying them lunch.”
When it comes to caregivers supporting themselves and their loved one with cancer, staying as informed as possible is key, according to Anita Logsdon, RN, BSN, OSN, treatment suite nurse at Oncology Hematology Care.
“It’s important to research the disease process before the appointment. Asking questions helps the caregiver and the patient to be proactive,” Logsdon said, mentioning that websites like lungevity.org and navigatelungcancer.org offer a wealth of information for patients and caregivers, including statistics on lung cancer caregivers.
“Caregivers and patients should know that not all of their questions may be answered at first. During their first treatment, they might not even know what to ask. This is a process; it’s a journey,” she said.
Questions caregivers should keep in mind are: What is the type and stage of my loved one’s lung cancer? What are the treatments available? What are the side effects we should expect, and how should they be managed?
Also, caregivers and patients should feel comfortable talking with their health care team about any clinical trials that may be available. They can visit clinicaltrials.gov to see what is available across the country.
In some instances, it may be easier for patients to get the care they need than it is for the caregiver.
“While a patient is going through their lung cancer treatment, they have a whole team taking care of them,” Brown said. “A caregiver usually doesn’t have that kind of support, so it’s extremely important to let caregivers know that they can ask and accept help and that there are resources out there like the ones mentioned that they can tap into and connect with others so that they don’t have to go through this alone.”