A cancer caregiver is a person who provides care for someone with cancer. Full-time caregivers are usually family members, such as a spouse or adult child. A cancer caregiver may also be a trained home health aide who provides regular or respite care. Respite caregivers fill in for a regular caregiver so that he or she can take a break. It is crucial for full-time family caregivers to take breaks from caring for their loved one who has cancer in order to stay healthy and avoid caregiver burnout.
Caregiver burnout refers to the state of exhaustion that may occur when a spouse or other person cares full time for an ill person. Providing constant care for a patient with cancer or another disease can be both physically and emotionally exhausting for full-time caregivers. Family caregivers worry about their loved ones, while at the same time need to use a lot of physical energy providing personal care that may include help with bathing, dressing, cooking, and cleaning.
A cancer caregiver also often drives patients to medical appointments. He or she offers support during cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, which may cause the patient side effects such as nausea and hair loss. Chemotherapy is the medical use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Other forms of cancer treatment include surgery to remove tumors and radiation therapy to kill and prevent cancerous cell growth. Individuals with cancer may be given a combination of different treatment therapies, all of which may require the patient to receive additional care.
Professional cancer caregivers who have home health aide training may work for patients who don't have a family member available to provide care. They may also work along with a family caregiver to allow the spouse, adult child, or other person a chance to get out of the home for much needed breaks or to run errands. A professional cancer caregiver who is trained in providing home health services may provide the patient with some medical assistance, such as taking blood tests and delivering them to the lab. He or she may also administer and monitor the home patient's cancer medications.
Whether professional or family, a cancer caregiver must be compassionate and sensitive. He or she should have a strong interest in helping the cancer patient recover from the disease and offer support and understanding. Cancer caregivers should be in good health themselves, as caring for patients can require a lot of energy. Being a good listener and putting the patient's needs and best interests first are other important skills for a cancer caregiver.