Factors that Influence How Families Adjust
Many factors can influence how your family copes with cancer and care giving, including:
Which family member has cancer
Is the patient a primary breadwinner? A parent to young children? An elder? A child? Your family will react differently depending on your loved one’s role in the household.
The kind of cancer your loved one has
Has your loved one had cancer for a long time? Was your loved one’s cancer already advanced when it was diagnosed? Does your loved one have uncontrolled symptoms, physical limitations, or cognitive impairment?
The kind of treatment your loved one receives
Do treatments take a lot of time? Is travel required? Does your loved one have many side effects or physical changes because of treatment? Has the goal changed from aggressive treatment to palliative care?
Where your loved one is being cared for
If you’re caring for your loved one at home, the household routine may change completely, and your family may not have enough support. If your loved one is in hospital or hospice, family routines will still be disrupted. You may feel guilty if you want to give care at home but cannot, and family members may miss your loved one’s presence.
How your loved one is coping
Is your loved one in denial about having advanced cancer? Does your loved one talk openly about what’s happening? Is your loved one feeling angry, frustrated, anxious, or depressed, or lashing out in response?
How involved your loved one is
Does your loved one actively participate in caregiving tasks, family activities, and the household routine? Has your loved one started to withdraw from daily life in preparation for death?
The family unit
Who makes up your household? Are there two adult heads of the household? Are there young children or teenagers? Adult children? Elders? Others? Is there extended family? Are they geographically or emotionally close? Do they provide practical, emotional, or financial support?
How your family unit generally functions
Do family members communicate effectively, solve problems, and work well as a team? If so, your family may already be well prepared for the challenges involved in cancer and caregiving. Do family members tend to act independently or at cross-purposes? If so, it may take more time to focus efforts and coordinate activities. Has your loved one traditionally been the primary decision maker? If so, family roles and responsibilities may change a lot.
How much the household routine changes
The more that the daily routine changes, the harder it may be for your family to cope while your loved one is ill, or to settle into a new normal pattern after your loved one dies.
The practical and emotional supports available to your family
Are there friends, neighbours, colleagues, or others who can help? Do you know how to find support in your community?