Helping to Manage Your Loved One’s Treatment

Sometimes, a person diagnosed with cancer feels overwhelmed and may need someone to help them sort through treatment options. Or, they may want someone there to help listen to the doctor’s instructions. A person receiving treatment might need a caregiver’s help in managing side effects or taking medication.

Here are some ways to help manage your loved one’s treatment:

Gather information. Learn about your loved one’s diagnosis and possible treatment options. One good place to start is by asking the doctor or nurse what resources they recommend. There are also many reliable websites and cancer organizations that can provide accurate, up-to-date medical information. Please see the ‘Introduction’ tab for a list of reliable websites.

Go to medical appointments together. Before a visit with the doctor, write down any questions the two of you would like to ask. Bring a notebook or portable voice recorder, so you can keep track of the doctor’s answers and refer to them later.

If you need to speak with the health care team without your loved one present, find out about the rules of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This law gives patients greater access to their own medical records and more control over how their health information is used. Your loved one will need to give written permission, by signing a consent form, before doctors can share information with you about their medical treatment.

Learn how to help with physical care. Depending on how they are feeling, people going through cancer and treatment may need help with a wide range of activities they would normally do themselves, such as bathing or dressing. Ask your loved one to let you know how they want you to help with these tasks.

Ask about special instructions. Check with the doctor or nurse to find out if there are any specific instructions you should be aware of. For example, are there any tips for managing a particular side effect, or does a special diet need to be followed during treatment? Keep the doctor’s phone number in a place that is easy to find in case you have questions.

Learn about organizations that help with medical care. If you need help managing some of your loved one’s medical needs, ask your doctor or hospital social worker about local home health agencies. These agencies may send nurses to the home to give medications, monitor vital signs or change bandages, for instance. Home health agencies can also send care providers who attend to other personal needs such as bathing, dressing, cooking or cleaning.