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The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center

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Coping Tips for Lung Cancer Caregivers

If you’re caring for a loved one who’s been diagnosed with lung cancer, you’ve stepped into a role that can be both challenging and rewarding. You may have a lot of questions about how to help and what to expect. The good news is that it’s possible to care for someone with cancer while also taking care of yourself.

What it Means to Be a Caregiver

Caregivers are typically family members or close friends who assist a person with cancer by offering support and managing tasks.

“As a caregiver, you may have a range of responsibilities on a daily or as-needed basis, depending on the needs of your loved one,” says Peggy Lang, N.P., coordinator of the multidisciplinary and screening clinics at the Lung Cancer Program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Your responsibilities may include:

  • Coordinating medical appointments
  • Providing a ride to appointments
  • Communicating with the cancer care team
  • Providing support and encouragement
  • Giving medications
  • Handling insurance and financial issues
  • Helping with tasks such as cleaning, grocery shopping and paying bills

How to Cope as a Caregiver

While caring for a person with cancer is complex, there are strategies to help you become a successful caregiver.

  1. Assemble a team: You don’t have to do this alone. If some of the day-to-day responsibilities become overwhelming, get help from family and friends.  
  2. Involve the patient: While you will manage many aspects of care, remember to involve your loved one as much as possible. Let your loved one do most of the talking during doctor visits and provide support in making decisions about care.
  3. Prepare for appointments: Arm yourself with a list of questions and notes about symptoms and side effects before you visit the doctor. Don’t be afraid to speak up during appointments. 
  4. Stay organized: Keep your loved one’s important files accessible, including medical records, insurance information, financial paperwork and other essential items. You can also help with organization by setting up medications, maintaining a calendar, and keeping a journal of symptoms and questions leading up to the next doctor visit.
  5. Communicate with the care team: Effective communication with your loved one’s cancer care team will ensure doctors are delivering comprehensive care. Get to know the doctors, nurses and social workers and ask direct questions.
  6. Help the patient follow treatment instructions: As a caregiver, you may administer medications or other medical treatments. If you don’t understand the treatment instructions, enlist the help of a nurse on your loved one’s cancer care team.
  7. Advocate for the patient: Stay up to date on your loved one’s cancer treatment and side effects. If something’s not working right, reach out to the cancer care team to explore new options for treatment such as an emerging clinical trial.
  8. Address legal and financial issues: Work collaboratively with support specialists such as a patient navigator, social worker or insurance case manager to handle insurance and billing claims, as well as legal issues like identifying a health care proxy.
  9. Find your own support: Join a support group for cancer caregivers where you can talk to people who understand what you’re going through and can help you.
  10. Take time for yourself: The stress of caring for a loved one with cancer can be physically and emotionally draining. Take time each day to focus on your own needs. You might use this time to take a walk, read a book, squeeze in a nap or do something that will help you feel refreshed.