Cancer has unfortunately become common. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2018 and of these approximately 609,640 people would have succumbed to the disease.
People suffering from cancer need extensive care. However, caregiving is not an easy task. While taking care of critical patients, the mental condition of caregivers providing assistance and support to the patients often goes unnoticed. This can make caregivers vulnerable to stress and sickness. The extent of vulnerability among caregivers intensifies if their loved ones suffer from excruciating sicknesses like cancer.
One of the most difficult situations in one’s life is having a spouse with a new cancer diagnosis. What are you supposed to do? How are you supposed to help your loved one? What should caregivers know? These are some of the questions that plaque the mind of such couples.
Protecting mental health of both patient and caregiver
The most important thing a couple can do is to act as a team. More than ever, you and your partner need to work together and communicate properly to help each other out. Here are a few tips that can help you navigate through the journey together.
- Consider putting plans on hold: If the cancer diagnosis is recent — or even if it isn’t — sometimes plans need to be put on hold. A spouse may be feeling too sick to participate in the usual activities and the couple would also need some time to process what is happening. It is therefore important to spend some time alone together to discuss feelings and the future course of action and set up small steps that can help one achieve their goals.
- Accepting new roles: After the cancer diagnosis, roles are going to shift within a relationship. Maybe a spouse was responsible for cleaning the house but is now too tired to keep up with the chores. Maybe a spouse was the primary breadwinner and now needs to take time off from work. As a spouse’s caregiver, one must be prepared to take on new challenges and perform roles that were once outside of their domain. This can be challenging but taking baby steps to achieve this can be gratifying and mentally relaxing for both the partners.
- Discuss breaking the news: Eventually, the spouse dealing with cancer will need to tell their family, friends, and co-workers about the diagnosis. The couple must work together to find the best way to break the news. The one grappling with the disease might not feel comfortable with the task. Therefore, the other partner might need to screen phone calls or control the flow of visitors. Alternatively, the cancer afflicted spouse might want to deliver the news themselves. The most important thing for the partners is to communicate and determine the best course of action and act accordingly.
- Planning date nights: Part of acting like a team means playing like a team. Have fun together. Take some time out of the week to plan special occasions. If the spouse who is unwell is too tired to go out to a restaurant, it is then wise to stay inside with a home-cooked or takeout meal. Play board games. Some days may be harder than the others, so it’s important that one accepts any last-minute changes and appreciates whatever time they are able to spend together.
- Don’t be afraid to show feelings: As the healthier member of the couple, one might feel obligated to act as the strong one. One is allowed to be frightened or anxious. One is also allowed to share these feelings with their spouses. Chances are both partners might feel helpless or afraid. Talking about these feelings together will strengthen the bond as a team and also help the other partner realize what one is going through.
Addressing mental health disorders
Despite all the anxiety that one might be feeling, it is important to understand that one is in a unique position to impact their spouse’s treatment and recovery. By facing this struggle together, both the partners can guard each other’s mental health and emerge as stronger people.
If you or a loved one is battling a mental health disorder and is looking for a credible mental health treatment center, get in touch with Medical Concierge. Call our 24/7 helpline 877-636-0042 and speak to a member of our team. You can also chat online to a representative for more information on mental health services.