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Lung Cancer Care
By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 3)

Loved ones and caregivers benefit by initiating a discussion on how to handle the diagnosis and treatment. Your loved one may want the option of having a single visit alone with their primary care doctor or oncologist to be able to ask questions they are not ready to discuss with you, or the entire family. You can offer this option to your loved one to help both of you cope with “raw” questions that need a physician’s answer.

Doctors may not be able to accommodate an extended private consultation with a caregiver, but it may help at crisis points (initial diagnosis or change in treatment and prognosis). There may be staff trained to fill this need, so it is better to ask and plan any discussion that would be otherwise difficult with your loved one present.

Coping skills are learned and sometimes transitory. What works during a given stage of treatment may need some help as time passes. For example, caregivers may find a release of stress by hiring staff to help with personal care, or to have a few hours outside the home. However, caregivers might find that the time outside the home is most productive for relieving stress when it involves a specific activity, such as exercise or perhaps counseling.

Dual counseling is another option for caregiver and loved one, regardless of the prognosis or stage of the cancer journey. The cancer center overseeing your loved one’s care can recommend a competent therapist. Clinical trial managers can advise you on any types of therapy offered to caregiver and/or loved one for the duration of the trial. Be open to a change of therapists if you have reached a plateau or would like an additional perspective.

It’s important to monitor’s one’s own sleep, eating habits and moods as it is to look after a loved one’s. Any changes that occur should be noted and discussed with your own doctor. Depending on your loved one’s state of processing and understanding their diagnosis, you may open up the discussion about how both of you have changed health and wellness behaviors.

Funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute, the website: has free registration and information that can be surfed online to allow caregivers and loved ones the use of worksheets that open communication on various issues.

End-of-life planning can be done with assistance from hospice or with family members. Remove the focus from the “end” idea, which insinuates the outcome of the cancer treatment will be negative. Hospice has a number of stories where patients have lived vibrant lives well beyond any expectations the doctors had. Often, getting “details” out of the way is a step away from the idea of “death,” because the topic is what is most painful. Caregivers and loved ones may have different reasons for fearing the discussion, but if both individuals converse about their mutual visions for their own end-of-life care, it becomes almost “another family discussion.”

Whether the discussion involves the possibility of assisted living outside the home, or bringing in more caregiving help for various stages of treatment, caregivers may find the hardest part is taking the leap of faith to begin talking. As a caregiver, you must also be willing to examine the possibility that you may need more help than you predict. Let go of the limiting thoughts that say you must do everything for your loved one. Being present and loving are “everything,” and with them, you can make the decisions that will serve your loved one best.

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