Caring for a Parent with Cancer blog

Caring for a Parent with Cancer

  • Being a caregiver for someone with cancer is never easy. And when the patient is your parent, additional concerns can come into play.

    It can take time to get used to the role reversal that comes with taking care of a sick mom or dad. You might find it difficult to see your parent needing help, and they might have a hard time accepting it. And many adult children also juggle caring for their own children and working full-time.

    In short, it's a lot. But you're not alone. And if you're a younger adult caring for a parent with cancer, these tips might make it easier to cope.

    Keep the communication lines open

    Check in with your parent about what they're thinking and how they're feeling. Ask about what you can do to support them, and get a fuller picture of their treatment wishes. Share what's on your mind, too, if you feel comfortable.

    If talking feels awkward, consider asking a relative, a close friend, a member of your healthcare team, or a counselor to help guide you. It may be easier to start sharing your concerns and questions in a letter or email. That can give you both the space you need as you ease in to talking in person.

    Focus on the essentials

    Tending to your parent's needs and the needs of your own family and career can lead to a full calendar—and a lot of stress. For now, try to trim your to-do list to just the essentials. That means activities that you enjoy doing with your parent, family, or partner, plus the must-do's like work, school meetings, and doctor appointments. Say no, thank you, to the rest.

    Stick with a regular schedule

    Kids find comfort in predictability. To minimize stress at home, double down on your routines as much as possible. That might be having breakfast together before school or reading books together after dinner.

    Let your kids know who will handle school pickups or other events if you're not available. And when plans change, help kids feel prepared by letting them know as soon as you can.

    Ask others for help

    Asking for a hand isn't always easy. But it can let you spend time with your partner or kids, do something for yourself, or enjoy being with your parent outside of cancer appointments.

    So when family members or friends ask what they can do to help, you might suggest that they:

    · Run errands or lend a hand with chores.

    · Watch your kids or drive them to activities.

    · Take your parent to some of their appointments.

    · Serve as the contact person who updates other family members and friends.

    Have a backup plan

    Enlist a relative or a trusted friend who can step in on short notice. Choose a family member who can help your parent or respond to an emergency when you're unavailable. Knowing you have someone to turn to can take some of the pressure off.

    Make time for yourself

    Taking care of your own needs isn't selfish—it makes you a better caregiver. Try to keep up with your everyday routines, like exercising and spending time with your partner. Block out regular time to pursue your hobbies and keep up with friends too. Taking time for yourself will help you feel refreshed, so you're less likely to get burnt out.

    Find more support

    Caregiving is a tough job, but it's an important one. To learn more about navigating your new role, check out Fox Chase's caregiver resource guide.