Monthly Archives: November 2015

10 Tips for Caregivers

This is a guest blog post by the Cancer Support Community.

A cancer diagnosis can impact your whole world. But what happens when you are also a big part of someone else’s world? Cancer impacts not just the person diagnosed, but their whole network of friends, family members and loved ones can feel the effects as well. This is especially true for the person acting as caregiver. Caregivers to someone with cancer spend an average of 8 hours per day providing care to their loved one. The demands of caregiving depend on several different variables–stage of disease, types of symptoms experienced, functional ability, treatment side effects and more. A caregiver’s response to the cancer diagnosis, treatment and journey itself can be just as important as how the patient responds–making the need for physical, social and emotional support for caregivers extremely important. In honor of National Family Caregiver Awareness Month, here are our top ten tips for caregivers.

  1. Find YOUR support system. When a friend or loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it’s an emotional time. Sometimes it can be difficult to talk with your loved one about your feelings, because you both have so much going on. Many find one of the best ways to cope with stress, uncertainty, and loneliness is to talk to others who share similar experiences. To find your own support system, look to our Affiliate Network or our online support group services.
  2. Gather information. There is truth to the phrase, “Knowledge is power.” There’s no way to completely grasp the ups and downs of a cancer diagnosis and treatment – and you shouldn’t be expected to. Being armed with knowledge may help you accommodate your loved one’s needs and help you know what to expect. To learn more about your loved one’s cancer diagnosis, click here.
  3. Recognize a “new normal.” Patients and caregivers alike report feeling a loss of control after a cancer diagnosis. Many caregivers are asked for advice about medical decisions or managing family finances and/or need to take on new day-to-day chores. It is likely that your tasks as a caregiver will create new routines – after all, you’re taking on a new role in your loved one’s life as well as your own.Maintaining a balance between your loved one’s disease and the daily activities of your own life can be a challenge. It may be helpful to identify the parts of your life that you can still control – such as your own health and relationships. In doing this, you will be able to create a strategy for integrating new routines with old ones. It may also help to acknowledge that your home life, finances, and friendships may change for a period of time. Sometimes the laundry might not get done, or maybe takeout will replace home cooking. Try to manage each day’s priority as it comes. Take a deep breath and realize that the support you provide is priceless.
  4. Relax your mind, recharge your body. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the tasks of caregiving. Mini-breaks are an easy way to replenish your energy and lower your stress. Try simple activities like taking a walk around the block or closing your eyes for 10 minutes in a comfortable chair. You are working hard to provide and secure the best care for your loved one. Time spent recharging your mind and body will allow you to avoid depression, major illness or burnout.
  5. Take Comfort in Others. It’s common for many caregivers to feel a loss of personal time over the course of their loved one’s illness. Keep in mind that while you are taking on new and additional responsibilities, you are still allowed a life of your own. Many seasoned caregivers advise that you continue to be involved with your circle of friends and family.
  6. Plan for the Future. A common feeling among caregivers and people with cancer is uncertainty. It’s hard to know what the future holds. While planning may be difficult, it can help. Try to schedule fun activities on days when your loved one is not feeling the side effects of treatment. You can also give yourselves something to look forward to by planning together how you will celebrate the end of treatment, or a portion of treatment.Planning for a future in the long-term is also important. All of us, whether we have been diagnosed with cancer or not, should have in place necessary paperwork such as healthcare agent, power of attorney and a will. You can ask your loved one if he or she needs, or wants, assistance. Having essential paperwork under control will allow you to have peace of mind.
  7. Accept a Helping Hand. It’s okay to have “helpers.” In fact, you may find that learning to let go and to say “YES!” will ease your anxiety and lift your spirits. People often want to chip in, but aren’t quite sure what type of assistance you need. It’s helpful to keep a list of all caregiving tasks, both small and large. That way, when someone asks “Is there anything I can do?” you are able to offer them specific choices.
  8. Be Mindful of YOUR Health. In order to be strong for your loved one, you need to take care of yourself. It’s easy to lose sight of your own health when you’re focused on your loved one. But if your own health is in jeopardy, who will take care of your loved one? Be sure to tend to any physical ailments of your own that arise, – this includes scheduling regular checkups and screenings. And just like your mother told you: eat well and get enough sleep.
  9. Consider Exploring Stress-Management Techniques. Even if you’ve never practiced mind-body exercises before, you may find that meditation, yoga, listening to music or simply breathing deeply will relieve your stress. Mind-body (or stress-reduction) interventions use a variety of techniques to help you relax mentally and physically. Examples include meditation, guided imagery and healing therapies that tap your creative outlets such as art, music or dance. If this interests you, seek out guidance or instruction to help you become your own “expert” on entering into a peaceful, rejuvenated state.
  10. Do What You Can, Admit What You Can’t. No one can do everything. It’s okay to acknowledge your limits. Come to terms with feeling overwhelmed (it will happen) and resolve to be firm when deciding what you can and cannot handle on your own–so that no one faces cancer alone.

Do you have your own tips for being a caregiver? Share your experience and your best tips by becoming a member of our Cancer Experience Registry: Caregivers. Your voice will help us better meet the social and emotional needs of all caregivers.

About the Cancer Support Community: The mission of the Cancer Support Community is to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and sustained by community.  As the largest, professionally led nonprofit network of cancer support worldwide, the Cancer Support Community delivers a comprehensive menu of personalized and essential services including support groups, educational workshops and social activities for the entire family at more than 100 locations and online. To learn more, call the Cancer Support Helpline at 888-793-9355 and check out the CSC blog.

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MyLifeLine.org partners with the Colorado Avalanche for Hockey Fights Cancer

MyLifeLine.org was honored to partner with the Colorado Avalanche for Hockey Fights Cancer on Tuesday, November 3rd and share the work of our organization with patrons and raise funds to support our mission. It was also a chance for MyLifeLine.org to honor two special friends of the organization who have been greatly impacted by cancer.

Harrison and his uncle at Hockey Fights Cancer

Harrison and his uncle Frank enjoying warm ups during Hockey Fights Cancer night

Hockey Fights Cancer is a charitable initiative between the National Hockey League (NHL) and the players association to raise awareness and funds in the fight against cancer. If you’ve been to a NHL game in the month of October, you might’ve noticed the purple logo on player’s helmets, the ice and display boards and around the arenas. MyLifeLine.org was fortunate to partner with the Colorado Avalanche in Denver, by receiving a portion of all tickets sold through the organization and hosting a table at the Avalanche vs. Calgary Flames to conduct outreach and share with attendees our mission and programs. The night was a huge success, we met over 150 people impacted by cancer and passed out materials to those who might need our services. We’re grateful to the Colorado Avalanche for the opportunity to share our important work to those who need us.

The night was also a special opportunity for MyLifeLine.org to honor two people close to the organization who have been impacted by cancer. Harrison is a 7 year old boy, a charming 2nd grader and an avid Colorado Avalanche fan. He sadly lost his dad to cancer in February of this year. Harrison’s father was a lifelong hockey fan who used to take his son to games regularly before passing away earlier this year.

Harrison’s uncle, Frank, his dad’s brother, flew in from Boston to take him to the game as one of the many ways they honor and remember him. Throughout his father’s journey, he used

MyLifeLine.org to keep his family and friends informed of his updates and his wife used it after his death to communicate about arrangements and celebrations of his life. The family bought tickets to the game to support MyLifeLine.org, and when the Colorado Avalanche heard his story they wanted to do something special. The Avs secured two seats on the bench during warm-ups for Harrison and his uncle Frank, to mingle with players and watch them practice up close. Harrison loved the experience and said it was something he’ll never forget!

Another special friend of the organization is Rose, one of MyLifeLine.org’s most dedicated volunteers who works tirelessly in our office and at events throughout the year. Rose has lost several close family members to cancer and volunteers to give back in their memory. Earlier this month, she hit 100 hours volunteered, just this year! MyLifeLine.org is so grateful for her support and honored she chooses to spend her time and expertise with us. If you’ve ever attended any of our events, you’ve seen Rose hard at work with a smile on her face and her spunky sense of humor!

Rose - DJ of the Game at Hockey Fights Cancer

Rose enjoyed being DJ of the Game at Hockey Fights Cancer

As one of the top selling non-profit ticket sellers for the game, MyLifeLine.org was honored with two tickets to join the Avalanche’s DJ in his booth throughout the game. We knew right away we wanted to honor Rose and all her hard work with this experience. She and a friend enjoyed picking out songs and “pressing play” throughout the night. Thank you to Rose for your dedication to MyLifeLine.org and to the Colorado Avalanche for honoring her invaluable work.

We’d like to thank the Colorado Avalanche for partnering with MyLifeLine.org and other important cancer nonprofits in Colorado for Hockey Fights Cancer and helping raise funds and awareness that are vital to supporting our mission. A special thank you to the Avalanche for honoring Harrison and Rose in a special way and supporting all people affected by cancer this month!

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Creating Your Caregiver Support Network

This is a guest blog post about creating your caregiver support network by The Caregiver Space, a non-profit dedicated to providing a supportive online space where all caregivers can share their stories and reach out to other caregivers.

One of the most important things you can do for yourself as a caregiver is to create a support network. Family, friends, medical professionals, fellow caregivers—these are all people that can become your foundation and your source of strength.

When you devote your time and energy to caring for a loved one, you are susceptible to burnout, depression, sickness and stress. With a healthy support system in place, you will be cared for when life happens.

Inform friends and family

Family and friends may have always been the center of your foundation, but caregiving can be an isolating task that can draw you away from the people you love. It’s important that they stay informed on your loved one’s progress and your well being through email, phone calls, coffee dates, or any other method of communication, like a personal website on MyLifeLine.org.

MyLifeLine.org can help you easily connect with your friends and family to keep them informed on you and your loved one. Your friends and family want to hear from you, and MyLifeLine.org makes it easy to update your entire support network.

Connecting with your family by writing about your experience in journal or blog form is particularly helpful. It allows you the relief of communicating some of your struggles, hopes and fears and it also gives your family and friends the ability to have a greater understanding of your journey.

Find a professional caregiver to support you

There may be times when your friends and family are unavailable to cover for you when you need a weekend to rest. Don’t be afraid to reach out for some professional support. Look for home health aides or certified nurse aides, ask about their support capacities and their training, set up an interview or a trial.

Get involved with support groups

In addition to your family, friends, and fellow caregivers, a structured support group may be beneficial. You can find support groups online in designated chat rooms or in person groups at your hospital. You can find groups to help you understand and cope with a specific affliction or a group particularly geared to helping caregivers.

Organize your support system

Make a list of friends, family, neighbors, caregivers and professionals that are available to support you. Divide them into groups: who can be there for you in an emergency? Who can you call to talk to every day? Who is able to take care of your loved one when you need time to take care of yourself? Who can help you keep your network informed on you and your loved one’s journey? Keep that list somewhere you can reference it every day.

There will be times when you feel in control and times when everything seems out of your grasp. Reach out. Pick up the phone and make a call to someone in your caregiver support network. The people who love you want to lend a hand. You can also post on the Helping Calendar on your MyLifeLine.org personal site when you need help but don’t want to ask  your friends and family directly.

Don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help from your support system. You are helping your network by giving them something to do that will support you and your loved one.

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About The Caregiver Space:
The Caregiver space is a non-profit dedicated to providing a supportive online space where all caregivers can share their stories and reach out to other caregivers. This is a space where you can get connected to caregiving resources, read realistic advice ranging from financial matters to personal matters in the home, and find solutions from other caregivers who’ve been there. Every caregiver, regardless of his/her journey, is welcome here.