Having a parent with lung cancer presents unique challenges for young adults who are in a critical stage of development – determining life plans, finishing education, establishing relationships, and building a family.
Erin Price, MSW, LICSW, the Director of Young Adult and Psychosocial Support Programs at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC provides some tips on how to navigate these challenges.
Acknowledge your feelings.
There is no right way to feel after your parent is diagnosed with cancer. It is normal to feel a range of emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, or guilt. Holding your feelings inside can keep you from seeking the help you need, whether that’s from family and friends, a support group, or a counselor. It may help to write about your feelings in a journal.
The Lung Cancer HELPLine offers toll-free, personalized support for patients and caregivers at any time along your lung cancer journey. Our oncology social workers are available to help you manage your emotional, financial, and support challenges.
Mobile apps can be useful for organizing medical information, communicating with your loved one’s medical and support teams, and more. Many apps have built in calendars or can be set up to sync with your calendar. If you’re not a fan of mobile apps, creating a special binder or notebook to keep track of your loved one’s information and important contacts can be equally as helpful.
Check out the Lung Cancer Navigator app.
Create a support or care team.
Asking for help can be hard. While you might feel like you want to do everything possible for your parent, keep in mind that taking care of someone with cancer can be a big job. Whether you are the primary or secondary caregiver, getting help from others may take some of the pressure off you so you feel less overwhelmed.
Here are some tips on how to ask family and friends for help.
Empower yourself with knowledge.
Learning about lung cancer will help you understand what your parent is going through. There is truth to the phrase, “Knowledge is power.” Knowing more about your parent’s type of lung cancer, their treatment, and the different specialists on their medical team can help you have more effective conversations with your parent.
Lung Cancer 101 is a good place to start.
Connect with other young adult caregivers.
It helps to talk to other people who know first-hand what you’re going through. As one young adult caregiver shared, “I cannot recommend highly enough finding spaces and communities that can hold big, hard feelings, without needing to fix them, explain them, minimize them, or reduce you to them."
LUNGevity has a private Facebook group specific to caregivers. Find community, support, and information by joining the conversation.
Prefer to connect with a peer one-on-one? LUNGevity’s LIfeLine connects patients and caregivers with others who have walked the lung cancer path and can offer advice, experience, and hope through email or phone.
You may think that self-care sounds selfish, but in order to be strong for your parent, you need to take care of your own mind and body. Managing your own needs is a healthy way to minimize stress and avoid burnout, sickness, and fatigue.
Read tips on Taking Care of Yourself.
Remember, taking on caregiving responsibilities when you are also trying to manage your own life is hard – and it’s okay if you don’t feel happy about having these added responsibilities. It’s important to set realistic expectations for what you can manage on your own and build yourself a support network whenever possible. No matter how much your parent needs you or how much you want to be there to help, it is important for you to take care of yourself as well as realize that you are not alone.
Resources for Caregivers at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts:
- Cancer Caregiver Support Group - Group for Caregivers of those diagnosed with cancer. Meets twice a month on Mondays from 6:00-7:00pm.
- Check out www.smithcenter.org for many other health and wellness programs for both cancer patients and caregivers of all ages.
If you live outside of the DC area, check with your local hospitals and cancer support organizations to see if there’s a support group near you.
Don't navigate lung cancer caregiving alone. Check out our Caregiver Resource Center for tips, tools, and support.