On Your Own:
Facing the challenges of cancer while living alone
Cancer can turn any household upsidedown, but facing cancer while living alone can add to the challenges of coping.
Who will help pay the bills if you can't work? How do you get to the clinic for treatment if the medicine makes you too sick
to drive? Who will help you take your pills on that day when the kitchen is just too far to walk?
Aryana Robbins, a social worker at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, said people with cancer who live alone
face a lot of unique challenges.
"We help a lot of patients who live alone with the practical aspects of their care," she said, "but we also try to encourage them to
seek out emotional support as well. It's difficult to be the patient, the caregiver and the advocate at one time."
Asking for help is the key for people who live alone. Connecting to people and services in your community helps to alleviate a sense
of isolation that is common among people with cancer who live in a household of one.
Here are some tips on how to do that.
Reach out to friends, acquaintances,
members of your community of faith
and co-workers. People often are willing to
lend a hand if they know you need it. Give
them options, depending on your level of
comfort, about how they can get involved.
An office fundraiser may be appropriate
for one person, while another may feel more
comfortable asking neighbors for help with
meals or rides. Ask a friend to coordinate
offers of help with the tasks that need to
Reach out to community organizations.
Local non-profit and religious
organizations may offer assistance. In particular, the American Cancer Society, United Way and Area Agencies on Aging may be able to
connect you with volunteers who can help with transportation, shopping, housekeeping, meals and companionship in difficult times.
Use the Web.
Several online tools are available to help you share your story with friends and family -- and inspire them to
contribute everything from kind words to a Sunday casserole to a case of nutritional drinks. CarePages.com
offered free to University of Michigan patients. The site offers free space to post updates about your condition; this is especially helpful if family is spread out
across the country. LotsaHelpingHands.com
[see the Thrive Winter 2010 homepage
is a useful tool for soliciting
and organizing help. Also, consider setting
up a wishlist via Amazon.com to let people
know what supplies you need, even if they
aren't offered for sale by Amazon.
Bring a tape recorder.
If you don't
feel comfortable inviting a friend to your medical
appointments, bring a tape recorder to help
you remember what your doctor says. You
can listen to these conversations again later if
questions pop up. You can also ask your doctor
to be sure that a copy of the clinical notes from
each visit is mailed to you.
No matter how independent
you are, its important to have an
emotional outlet during these difficult times.
Make regular phone calls to catch up with
friends socially. And consider talking with a
therapist, counselor, member of the clergy or
spiritual care provider.
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