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Family and Friends as Caregivers
Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD
The family also has a significant role in caregiving and support and is usually a source of strength to both patient and caregiver. Their supportive reassurance and provision of comfort for patient, family and friends are positive sources of satisfaction. They are also a source of information and guidance and often provide solutions to problems. They are a vital source of communication between patient, family and the medical team.
Friends are another source of support and strength for patient and family, as well as caregivers, and if there is a long time during the palliative care process, one often sees some diminution in friends‚ supportive care, as it's a wearing process, and frustration and burnout are not uncommon in some cases. Friends are also very important in family and spiritual support.
Caregiving for a sick relative is often a family experience and often provides a chance for siblings to cooperate and become closer under a stressful situation. There is often psychological and physical stress due to the efforts to achieve a comfortable palliative care situation because of the demands, including both time and effort, in order to meet the needs. Frequently, siblings are in different cities and have to make special arrangements to participate in a cooperative caregiving program.
Additional cooperative efforts are needed in preparing for the eventual death in order to reduce potential later conflicts, which often involve dividing personal properties, money, property and inheritance. Frequently, discord becomes apparent due to these potential problems. Solving them ahead of time can help relieve dissention and unhappiness later.
There are also problems where sharing of duties is unequal, either because of time, distance by living in other cities, or due to personal efforts. The frustration of not always meeting the needs, may lead to resentment and unhappiness among siblings.
It is important to meet the challenges and resolve the conflicts as early as possible in order to promote a more harmonious relationship, not only during the caregiving process but also afterwards.
Some family members or siblings are unable to participate, and this could be for many reasons, such as inability, time, or not wishing to participate in the caregiving process. A family meeting where feelings are expressed and problems discussed and resolved as best as possible can lead to better caregiving, as well as keeping family relationships intact.
Each person has different expectations of what they can do, what they wish to do, and how they wish to participate. It's difficult to be critical of others, because each person has his own agenda and his own capacity to perform. By being respectful of the others' needs and wishes, a more harmonious caregiving process can be achieved.
Obtain counseling and help from the medical team's social worker, religious advisors, and other resources, including the family attorney, and try to use their advice appropriately to help cement good relations within the family as part of the caregiving process. Getting consultations, obtaining and using resources, and implementing advice are part of a good caregiving plan and program.
- CancerSupportiveCare.com The Legacy Project (cancersupportivecare.com/Legacy)
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