Facing a difficult diagnosis
Having a diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, or another chronic condition can be scary and overwhelming. As a caregiver, you want to support your loved one and help them enjoy the highest quality of life possible. Here are some ways you can help manage the physical and emotional challenges of someone living with a chronic condition.
Sharon Laushway, a health advocate at BCBSRI, recommends learning as much as you can about the condition.
“Start with the association that is linked with the condition, such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, or the American Diabetes Association,” she says. “They all have information and resources on their websites for caregivers that are tailored to that particular condition.”
Knowing the facts about the condition and having a clear understanding of your loved one’s individual case is essential. With their consent, talk to their healthcare providers to get a full picture of their health and what to expect. This can include information about treatment options and medications, as well as how to cope with the stress of managing a chronic condition—for both of you.
Encourage independence as much as possible
As a caregiver, there’s a fine line between wanting to do everything for the person and helping them do as much as they can for themselves. Depending on their condition, it may be possible for them to still do quite a lot.
“Sometimes conflicts arise when a caregiver may think the person needs to do one thing, but the person may not be ready or want to do that. I’ll work with a caregiver one-on-one to come up with a plan to meet the patient where they’re at,” explains Gayle Maloney, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, a dietitian case manager at BCBSRI.
Take baby steps, but set goals
The diagnosis is most likely going to require both of you to make some lifestyle changes. Whether it’s starting an exercise regimen or changing your diet, doing it together can be extremely beneficial.
Encourage your loved one to join a support group for people with the condition, and look into finding a support group for caregivers in your situation, too.
Give yourself a break
It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself while caring for a loved one. Caregiver stress is real and can take a serious toll on your own health as well as the person you’re caring for. Always ask for help when you need it, and remember that you’re never alone.