When we talk about cancer care, we often focus on treatment options like chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. However, the role of the caregiver, the one who takes up the responsibility of looking after the cancer patient, often goes unnoticed.
In the Health Digest segment of KTN News, Dr Mercy Korir delved into the challenges caregivers face when their loved one gets a positive cancer diagnosis.
Challenges faced by the cancer caregiver
1. Accommodation when they bring the patient to for treatment
Cancer patients who do not live in the city are often forced to travel to the city hospitals to receive treatment. Many have a travelling companion, who, many times is the caregiver. While the patient gets admitted at the hospital for the duration of their treatment, caregivers are frequently left to fend for themselves. They have to look for their own accommodation as well as meals and transport to and from the hospital.
2. Lack of resources to seek out treatment
Cancer treatment is expensive. For example, according to the National Cancer Institute-Kenya, breast cancer treatment without surgery can cost between Sh175, 000-Sh1,980,000 and Sh758,000-2,480,000 with surgery. Many don’t have medical insurance and so have to bear the total cost of treatment. This puts a financial strain on caregivers and the families of the cancer patient.
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3. Carry the psychological burden of the patient
Cancer patients face various psychological challenges. They have anxiety and often fall into depression. Caregivers often come face to face with the despondent patient and have to carry this psychological burden. This burden is even worse for children, particularly younger ones, who are forced to care for their sick parent.
4. No systems put in place to guide caregivers after a positive diagnosis
After a positive diagnosis, caregivers are on many occasions left to fend for themselves. They have to nag healthcare providers for medical information and explanations on the treatment the patient is receiving. They lack psychological support and like the cancer patient, often end up suffering from depression and anxiety.
5. Caregivers end up putting their lives at a standstill
Cancer patients need constant care. They need to be taken to their doctor’s appointments, helped to take their medication and urged to eat. Some even require help with matters of personal hygiene. This burden falls on the caregivers who might end up putting their lives on a standstill for the sake of the patient.
While most caregivers go out of their way to ensure that the patient is well-taken care for, it is important that their needs and the struggle they go through be recognised as well. They might not complain about the sacrifices they are making but, any support they can get be it financial, psychological and even educational (receiving details of the patient’s medical condition) can go a long way in alleviating the emotional drain they face.