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Caring for a parent with cancer

If you are providing care for a parent with cancer, here are some resources to help you care for your parent, self and loved ones.

Sarah Cannon
November 19, 2023
Older smiling woman with younger smiling woman

Learning that your parent has cancer can be devastating and overwhelming, but please know you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you. Here are some tips to help you care for a parent in need while you care for yourself and others.

The role of the caregiver

A caregiver is a family member, partner or friend who assists their loved one through all or part of their health journey. Caregiving can be a demanding and profoundly personal role. Caregivers help with daily activities, such as transportation, meal preparation, managing finances and helping with personal hygiene. Their role can range from being their loved one’s sole decision-maker to simply being a source of emotional support.

Caring for a parent with cancer in your 20s and 30s

It is not uncommon for young adults in their twenties and thirties to become the caregivers of their parents. However, this can be a challenging role to take on at this time because these are the years when many start families and establish their careers. With lots of duties to juggle, caregiving can feel stressful for young adults, and it can be difficult emotionally to care for someone who once cared for you.

Tips for caregivers

No matter your age, caregiving can be a difficult and emotional time for the caregiver, parent and the rest of the family. Here are some tips and resources to help you on your caregiver journey:

  • Take advantage of the resources that are available to you, such as support groups, online tools and nurse navigators. Navigators provide emotional support, education and guidance to patients and families through their cancer journey.
  • Learn about your parent’s cancer and how to care for them.
  • Take care of your physical and emotional health so you can care for your parent and other family members.
    • Get enough sleep, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.
    • Take scheduled and unscheduled breaks and make time for activities that bring you joy, laughter and peace.
    • Reach out to your social support system for emotional support and help with tasks.
    • Connect with people going through similar experiences by attending a support group.
    • If you are having trouble managing your emotions and/or it’s affecting your life and relationships, consider counseling. You can start by calling CancerCare at (800) 813-HOPE (4673) for free, short-term, one-on-one counseling.
  • Make a plan and get help managing your life’s duties.
    • Ongoing communication is key when coordinating care with other people and making decisions that affect your day-to-day life.
    • Ask for help from friends, family members and/or your faith-based organization. There are websites and apps to help you do this, including Caringbridge, CareCalendar and Living with Cancer.
    • If you share caregiver duties with others, make a plan with them in the beginning and update it as needed to ensure your parent’s needs are covered. If your other parent or step-parent is also a caregiver, be sensitive to their role.
    • Don’t neglect your own family if you have a spouse and/or children. You have to prioritize what’s most important and what can be done later or by someone else.
    • If you work, talk to your employer about taking time off to help your parent. You may be eligible for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Navigate your evolving relationship with your parent carefully.
    • Remember, the time spent with your parent can be challenging but meaningful. You may be their caregiver now, but you are still and will always be their child.
    • Be open and honest with each other. Know and honor your parent’s wishes and make a plan on which you can both agree.
    • Be patient and allow your parent to have as much independence as safely possible. Remember, their world has just turned upside down, too, and there is grieving with that type of change.
    • Be aware that your parent may become frustrated and lash out at you. Try to remain calm and not react in anger.
    • Carve out some quality time together, even if for brief moments, to do something that you both enjoy.

Becoming your parent’s caregiver is challenging, but again, you do not need to go through it alone. Contact your parent’s nurse navigator for guidance, support and resources. If their hospital does not have a nurse navigator, ask their doctor for a hospital referral line to get in contact with one.

If you have additional questions about cancer care, Methodist Healthcare is here for you. We have been one of the country’s most trusted providers of adult and pediatric cancer programs since 1993 and provide more cancer care than any healthcare system in South Texas.

Have cancer questions? We can help. Methodist Healthcare is part of Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare. askSARAH is a dedicated helpline for your cancer-related questions. Our specially trained nurses are available 24/7, and all calls are confidential. Contact askSARAH at (844) 482-4812.

This blog was originally published on the Sarah Cannon website in 2021. It was updated for Methodist Healthcare in 2023.

November 19, 2023

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