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On the last track we discussed communication guidelines. The six guidelines for communication on this track were sometimes it’s best to begin with the facts, say how you feel first, don’t cover up your feelings, avoid judgment, and offer acceptance and support, validation, and cry.
On this track we will discuss what to do. In my practice, I find that when a client experiences a loved one diagnosed with cancer, one of the first things he or she asks is, ‘What can I do?’ If you have a client with similar concerns, perhaps the information on this track will spark ideas to help generate a list for your client. The actions on this track include bringing food, getting the patient involved, helping with chores, helping with out of town guests, calling and visiting, and creating laughter.
Deciding Which Action to Take - 6 Possibilities
1. One of the easiest things clients can do when a loved one has cancer is to bring food. Giving ready to eat, complete meals is an excellent way to answer the question of what to do. A variety of food can help keep things interesting. And gift certificates to restaurants that deliver can also help.
2. A second action clients can take when they are unsure of what to do is to get their loved one involved in activities that promote giving and improve self worth. Jill stated, "I started taking my dad to church. He said he wanted to go so he could find a way to get plugged into volunteer work." Think of your client. Could his or her loved one benefit from church, charity, or school projects?
3. The third action is, you might suggest that your client help with chores. Jill mentioned putting on snow tires, plowing the driveway, taking down Christmas lights, raking leaves, and taking down storm windows. Jill stated, "I don’t know how it is with other people, but if I hadn’t done a lot of that stuff, it never would have gotten done." Other simple things the client can do to help might include laundry or other household chores, caring for pets, scheduling appointments, shopping, driving children, or anything else which can be done to help. Many clients I have treated reveal that these actions are often the most appreciated.
4. A fourth action is help with out of town guests. Harold, age 49, stated, "I wanted to be at the hospital with my wife as much as I could. But when her parents came to stay with me, they took hours to get ready to go see her! A neighbor offered to drive them to the hospital. She relieved a lot of tension for me." As you probably know, guests impose additional burdens on families struggling with cancer. Help can be provided by transporting, feeding, or housing visitors.
5. Fifth, you might suggest that your client call and visit. Calling and visiting may seem like an obvious thing to do, but clients may not feel that these actions are adequate. Jake, a 52 year old man with lung cancer, stated, "Some of my friends disappeared when I was going through treatment. But a few of my coworkers visited each week for a few minutes. One lady came by once a month. We talked for hours, and I always felt better after she left. It didn’t matter how many times people came or how long they stayed. Every visit was special."
6. Finally, you might suggest your client work to create laughter in the life of their sick loved one. Ways to create laughter are to memorize and tell a good joke, watch a comedy together, buy a funny book or audiotape, share funny memories, or bring a kid. Children have a wonderful way of making people laugh.
Think of your client. How might the information on this track help your client think of what to do for or with their loved one with cancer? Would playing this track in a session be beneficial?
On this track we discussed what to do. The actions on this track included bringing food, getting the patient involved, helping with chores, helping with out of town guests, calling and visiting, and creating laughter.
On the next track we will discuss providing comfort to the caregiver. Three interventions which can help provide comfort to the caregiver include not letting the cancer patient be the focus of all conversation, encourage time outs, and avoiding interference.
When Someone You Love Has Advanced Cancer
- National Cancer Institute. (2014). When Someone You Love Has Advanced Cancer. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Müller, F., Tuinman, M. A., Stephenson, E., Smink, A., DeLongis, A., & Hagedoorn, M. (2018). Associations of daily partner responses with fatigue interference and relationship satisfaction in colorectal cancer patients. Health Psychology, 37(11), 1015–1024.
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