The Critical Role of Caregivers
- Actor Austin Butler, 32, acted as his late mom’s caregiver while she was battling cancer up until 2014. He helped her administer IVs and managed her feeding tubes.
- A caregiver may be a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a close friend, or a child. This special person often assumes multiple roles to make the life of their loved one battling cancer easier.
- Examples of caregiver activities may include attending doctor visits, helping the patient take notes and ask questions, providing transportation to treatment, and helping with everyday activities such as preparing meals.
- Mental health professionals are available to caregivers, too, who are managing a slew of new responsibilities. Joining a caregiver support group can also help prevent or reduce the risk of caregiver burnout.
- Caregiver burnout is the stress, anger, fatigue, and illness that can come from putting another person’s needs ahead of your own.
Actor Austin Butler, 32, was close to his late mother, who died from cancer in 2014. The young actor was only 22 years old when his mom, Lori, was diagnosed. By then, his acting career was in full swing, but it took a back seat while he did what he could to care for his mom.
“I felt like I had to be a mountain,” Butler told Esquire during an interview.Read More
A decade removed from Butler’s mom’s emotional cancer battle, the “Elvis” actor is reflecting on that difficult time in his life.
Butler’s been in the spotlight since childhood, when his acting career began on Nickelodeon and Disney in the mid-2000s. His latest project debuting on Apple TV is “Masters of the Air,” which tells the story of a group of brave young pilots who are part of the American Eight Air Force.
Butler credits his successful career to his mom’s unyielding sacrifice.
“She quit her job to drive me to auditions and drive me to acting class. And she’d wait outside and then drive all the way back down to Orange County,” he said to NBC’s “Today” host Willie Geist.
As he entered adulthood, his life and acting career took a turn when his mom passed away from cancer. Specific details on the type of cancer Lori had remain unclear. Butler’s number one supporter was no longer by his side, and his mom’s absence weighed heavily on him emotionally.
He said he took time off from acting to grieve and slipped into a “deeper and deeper depression.” He grieved for months before returning to his acting career.
He got a small tattoo with the number 27 etched on his left wrist, memorializing his mom’s lucky number.
“There are so many things (where) I just go, ‘I want to make her proud.’ I want to let her live through me and the lessons that she taught me,” Butler said.
Expert Resources to Aid Caregivers
- “Be Proud Of What You’re Doing” — Justine Almada’s Ode to Cancer Caregivers
- ‘A Sacred and Blessed Calling’ – Managing Life As a Caregiver
- SurvivorNetTV Presents: Care to Laugh — A Comedian & Cancer Caregiver’s Quest To Make People Smile
- The First Steps to Take as a Caregiver When a Loved One is Diagnosed With Cancer
The Critical Role of Cancer Caregivers
Many cancer patients are encouraged to build a support group to help them through their cancer journey. Sometimes, close members of that support group may be caregivers. This special person may be a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a close friend, or a child. A caregiver often assumes multiple roles to help make their beloved cancer patient’s life easier.
Cancer caregivers may:
- Attend doctor visits with the patient
- Help the patient take notes/ask questions
- Provide transportation to and from treatment
- Accompany the patient during treatment
- Help keep track of side effects
- Link up with a social worker/patient navigator
- Help with day-to-day activities
- Provide emotional support
Caregivers should know that although their cancer warrior relies on them, they also need support from time to time. Social workers and patient advocates may be available and can help guide you through treatment options, financial assistance, and mental health resources.
WATCH: The vital role of patient navigators.
“Patient navigators can function differently at different hospitals,” Dr. Kathie-Ann Joseph, a surgical oncologist at NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet. “We have a really wonderful program at [NYU] where we used lay navigators, meaning they’re not nurses, although you can use nurses or social workers that pretty much help newly diagnosed cancer patients through the continuum of care.”
Don’t Forget About Your Own Needs
Acting as a caregiver can be a daunting task depending on the circumstances of the cancer patient’s diagnosis and subsequent treatment. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to overlook their own needs and emotional health. SurvivorNet experts stress that caregivers are more effective if they remember to care for themselves.
“It is important to have some things that you can do that’s kind of outside of the focus of caring for somebody that you love with cancer,” Julie Bulger, manager of patient and family-centered care at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, told SurvivorNet. Bulger suggested caregivers find some activities that help them relax, like taking a walk or going for a massage.
WATCH: How Caregivers Must Take Care of Themselves Too
Finally, remember that mental health professionals are also available to caregivers who can help manage the new responsibilities. Joining a caregiver support group can also help prevent or reduce the risk of caregiver burnout.
Caregiver burnout is the stress, anger, fatigue, and illness that can come from putting another person’s needs ahead of your own. It can sneak up on you if you don’t care for yourself.