When a parent or loved one becomes seriously ill, you can guarantee that no amount of previous preparation can equip you for what is in store. Each situation is unique, and I can only reflect below on my personal situation where my mum got Stage 3 Oesophagus Cancer and what helped me get through it. This is simply my opinion and I do recommend you seek out professional help in addition to this checklist to help you keep mentally well during this stressful time.
Diagnosis and the research stage
Good ol’ Dr Google
Like many people, Googling the illness or disease is our first point of call. This is a very quick and easy way to get informed, but please be aware that the information is often set in a tone that is not only full of medical jargon, it can also state the worse case scenarios, in turn, scaring you unnecessarily into thinking the worst.
Consultations with the specialists
Due to the changing staff working on your loved one’s case, you will need to be patient yet vigilant and firm as you try to keep up with their care management. Sometimes information is left out and not passed on to the incoming from the outgoing team, which can be frustrating for you yet try to see it as you helping them simply connect all the dots when needed. Try to keep flexible and open as various specialists and teams assess the situation, always ask questions and note down the information given to your loved one as quite often they are not at their best to digest all the jargon and severity of the situation. I got by with a “bracket of error” where I almost expected that small mistakes or delays in care could occur due to the pressure the hospital staff are under – however, there is a limit so make sure you know yours!
Becoming a carer
Support from individuals
It sounds obvious, but you will need support even if you are quite strong by nature in these challenging situations. Build a support network around you with family members and friends or I found great comfort in seeking out local community groups that were similar to what I would attend in my home town (I was a carer in a city that was not my normal residence). I had a toddler with me during the time of caring, so I connected with local parenting and kids activity groups. At first, I was apprehensive as to how much personal information I wanted to divulge to strangers, but these groups ended up being so supportive and welcoming – it’s amazing how humans all over have been through something in their lives and all naturally pitch in to help you during this time.
Support from organisations
I never knew there were associations of carers for carers, yet now I understand why! It is wonderful that in most cities or regions you can access organisations that are specific to supporting you and your loved one through a particular illness and caring for them. I met with a Cancer Society Counsellor when my mum was uncharacteristically down and found the advice they gave very helpful – I was so new to it all yet they have had so much valuable experience.
Self-care and keeping sane – the checklist