Sunday, November 6, 2011

Family Matters: Changes to Roles in the Family

When someone in a family has cancer, everyone takes on new roles and responsibilities. For example, a child may be asked to do more chores or a spouse or partner may need to help pay bills, shop, or do yard work. Family members sometimes have trouble adjusting to these new roles.

Adjusting to Your New Situation

Many families have trouble getting used to the role changes that may be required when a loved one has cancer.

Money. Cancer can reduce the amount of money your family has to spend or save. If you're not able to work, someone else in your family may feel that he or she needs to get a job. You and your family may need to learn more about health insurance and find out what will be covered and what you need to pay for. Most people find it stressful to keep up with money matters. 

Living arrangements. People with cancer sometimes need to change where they live or whom they live with. Now that you have cancer, you may need to move in with someone else to get the care you need. This can be hard because you may feel that you are losing your independence, at least for a little while. Or, you may need to travel far from home for treatment. If you have to be away from home for treatments take a few little things from home with you. This way, there will be something familiar even in a strange place.

Daily activities. You may need help with duties such as paying bills, cooking meals, or coaching your children's teams. Asking others to do these things for you can be hard. A young father in treatment for colon cancer said,

"When I came home from the hospital, I wanted to be in charge again but simply didn't have the energy. It was so hard to ask for help! It was easier to accept help when I realized that my kids felt that they were contributing to my recovery."

Developing a Plan

Even when others offer to help, it's important to let people know that you can still do some things for yourself. As much as you're able, keep up with your normal routine by making decisions, doing household chores, and working on hobbies that you enjoy.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Think about hiring someone or asking for a volunteer. You might be able to find a volunteer through groups in your community.

Paid help or volunteers may be able to help with:
  • physical care, such as bathing or dressing
  • household chores, such as cleaning or food shopping
  • skilled care, such as giving you special feedings or medications
Respite care. Just as you need time for yourself, your family members also need time to rest, have fun, and take care of their other duties. Respite care is a way people can get the time they need. In respite care, someone comes to your home and takes care of you while your family member goes out for a while. Let your doctor or social worker know if you want to learn more about respite care. 

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