Taking Care of Your Health

When a Parent Has Cancer

January 12, 2018


It can be distressing to learn that someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer – and all the more so if that person is your parent. Ever since you were a small child, you’ve probably viewed your parents as strong and invincible, and always there to take care of you. When a parent becomes ill, your long-established roles may abruptly reverse. As your parent fights cancer, you’ll likely find your job as caregiver to be heart-wrenching – but it can also be very gratifying.

As you take this difficult journey together, there are many things you can do to make the process easier for both your parent and yourself. Here are some suggestions from Moffitt Cancer Center:

  • Be an excellent note-taker – A vast amount of information will be provided during every doctor’s visit, and your parent may easily become overwhelmed. Be sure to sharpen your note-taking skills along with your pencil and accompany your parent whenever he or she meets with a health care professional. Write down information about the provider’s recommendations, goals and next steps. Be sure to include specifics on how and when to take medications, as well as any possible side effects and how they can be managed.
  • Enlist help – Continually traveling to and from doctors’ offices and treatment centers can be exhausting, not to mention expensive. Consider hiring a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or a visiting nursing assistant (VNA) who can perform a number of medical-related tasks, such as taking vital signs and administering IV medications, in the comfort of your parent’s home.
  • Be patient with the rest of your family – Your relatives are all individuals, and each will cope with your parent’s diagnosis in a unique way. Some may need to verbalize their feelings, while others may prefer to keep their emotions to themselves. Instead of engaging in disagreements, which will only create additional stress for your parent, be patient with your other family members. Learn to lean on each other as you rally around your parent.
  • Create a blog – Many people will likely want to check in with your parent periodically to find out how he or she is doing. While the resulting sense of community can be wonderful, your parent may quickly tire of answering calls and repeating the same story over and over again. Consider creating an online blog, which you can use to keep everyone updated on your parent’s health and provide a place to leave comments and supportive messages.

Additionally, keep in mind that in order to provide the best possible care for you parent, you’ll need to take care of yourself, too. Learn what steps you need to take to maintain your own physical health and emotional well-being. Allow yourself time to cry when you need to. Acknowledge that you have a lot going on, and know your true friends will understand and give you a guilt-free pass.

If you need help managing your role as a caregiver for your parent as he or she battles cancer, you can turn to a specialist at Moffitt. Request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online or speak with your parent's provider.