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Cancer - What Can You Do To Support A Loved One?

Oct 30, 2017 by Larry Morgan

Cancer is one of the most feared diseases – and rightfully so. Its causes are so varied and poorly understand that it can creep up on anybody at virtually any time.

If you know someone with cancer, you may see just how difficult things can be for them. Even if their physical symptoms are minor or remission is on the horizon, it’s still emotionally tolling on the patient, as well as all of those involved their care.

Knowing how to be there for someone with the condition is another curveball. What do you say, what do you do? You don’t want to act weird around them, but you want to be careful to not step on any toes, either.

Here are some tips for navigating this situation so that you can provide much needed support to your loved one with cancer:

Visit Them

Yes, we’re starting off with the most daunting form of support from the start, because it’s the most important! Above everything else, physically being there as much as you can will mean the world to your loved one. Face-to-face interaction is among the most beneficial ways to help improve mood, and you will really get a sense of how they’re feeling. Hearing their voice over the phone is one thing, but seeing their body language and physical condition yourself is another.

For seniors especially, this aspect of support is vital. Many seniors with debilitating conditions tend to get lonely because they feel isolated from their friends and family. It’s not easy for them to go out, or even if it is, they may feel embarrassed by their condition and not want to be around anybody. It can quickly lead to them locking themselves up in their house and dwelling in their sadness.

Some tips for visiting a loved one with cancer are:

  • Be sure to call and set up a time to visit. They may have a schedule of their own to adhere to, and it’s important to respect that.
  • Don’t feel offended if they ask you to leave. They’re going through a lot, and may get overwhelmed.
  • Try to visit during the “off” times, not just during the holidays or weekends when everyone else visits.
  • Physical contact is reassuring to most people, so a friendly hug, pat on the shoulder or even holding their hand may make them feel comforted.

Run Errands for Them

What better way to be supportive than to help them with tasks they genuinely need help with? You can be as involved as you both want in this aspect. For example, some ways you can help are:

  • Running minor errands on a schedule (say, once a week) for your loved one and/or their caregiver
  • Planning projects and being in charge of their completion
  • Reaching out to help for random errands or tasks that they may be too scared to ask for assistance on

Show Them You’re Thinking of Them

When you can’t visit, it’s important to show them that you’re still thinking of them. If they love receiving mail, send them cute cards and letters here and there. If they prefer email or texting, it only takes 30 seconds to send a quick note to check in on them. Or, talking on the phone always helps people to feel cared for and listened to. It’s the little things that can really add up and make their days a little brighter.

For more information about supporting your loved one with cancer or other resources available to you, visit the American Cancer Society’s website.

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