Adjusting to Post-Treatment

September 23, 2009
CURE, Fall Supplement 2009, Volume 8, Issue 0

Tips for caregivers trying to adjust after a loved one completes treatment.

According to the National Cancer Institute, a common reaction from caregivers after treatment ends is, “Now what do I do?” It’s common for care­givers to feel confused after their focus has been entirely on getting the patient through treatment. Just as the survivor is searching for the “new normal,” the caregiver must begin to transition as well.

Here are some tips from a number of national resources. Many of them focus on taking time now that the acute stage of survivorship has ended to reflect on what has occurred and how it will affect your future:

> Credit yourself for the time and energy spent on caregiving.

> Acknowledge conflicting or confusing feelings, such as positive feelings of no longer being needed by a child or spouse.

> Keep a journal to help process emotions.

> Take time each day to do something for yourself, whether it be exercising, keeping up with a hobby, seeing a movie, or napping.

> Educate yourself about available resources that deal with survivorship.

> Begin to focus on other family and work issues that were put on hold during treatment.

> Ease back into your social environment by spending time with friends and family, and getting back to activities that you enjoy.

> Seek professional help if you isolate yourself or have difficulty with daily tasks, engage in substance abuse, or experience persistent feelings of hopelessness.

Caregivers may find that their struggle to regain their life is as complicated as the survivor’s. Indeed, studies show caregiver anxiety can be higher than the survivor’s in some situations.

Keep communication open, and don’t be surprised if during this time, both survivor and care-giver need support at different times for different reasons. Again, a professional may help sort out the changing relationship.

Contact the social work department where the patient was treated to identify available resources.