What it means to be a breast cancer caregiver

Caregiving helping in kitchen

Caregivers can help with day-to-day needs, such as transportation to and from appointments and maintaining home life. Caregivers can also provide social and emotional support. If you are (or are becoming) a caregiver for someone diagnosed with breast cancer, your role makes a huge difference in the physical and mental well-being of your friend or loved one.

As a caregiver, you may help your loved with a wide range of needs, such as:

  • Shopping, cooking, cleaning, pet care, and other household tasks
  • Driving and transportation arrangements
  • Providing physical assistance, such as help with dressing and bathing, and helping a person to cope with treatment side effects
  • Organizing and giving medicines
  • Making appointments
  • Helping fill out medical forms
  • Managing communications with healthcare providers and insurance companies
  • Managing finances
  • Keeping other friends and family informed
  • Providing social and emotional support and outlets

Caregiving roles will be different based on each individual situation, and they will likely evolve over time as needs change. When a loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer, the road ahead is usually a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important to pace yourself. Maintaining personal boundaries and having open, honest dialogue can help everyone involved to feel like they have as much energy as possible for each day and whatever it may bring. 

For many people, becoming a caregiver can represent a role shift. It might be a new role with a parent or sibling, or with a long-term partner. Maybe you’re taking on responsibilities that were normally someone else’s. For example, maybe your mother has always been there for you with support and care, and now it’s the other way around. Or, as a friend, you’d always been there for social fun, but now find yourself helping with chores.

Transitions like this can feel awkward at first, but it can help to remember the positive role you are playing in your loved one’s life, and that caregiving can bring satisfaction to your own life, too. While caregiving can be challenging sometimes, a caregiving relationship can strengthen bonds, provide opportunities to give back, and help you recognize skills and abilities you never knew you had. At the same time, it’s important to take care of yourself. Checking in with your emotions, finding people you can talk to, and setting limits are all a part of that.  

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