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Caregiving for a Loved One With Multiple Myeloma

Taking care of a cancer patient at home can take its toll physically and emotionally. Here’s how to support yourself while you provide care.

Medically reviewed in April 2021

Updated on February 10, 2022

When a loved one is diagnosed with multiple myeloma, everyone’s focus—from family, friends, to healthcare providers—is squarely on that new patient, just as it should be.

But caregivers and the people who love the patient bear a burden as well. They must offer abundant emotional and practical support, handling everything from transportation to healthcare appointments, to doing household chores to helping other people emotionally cope. Amid all this, it’s all too common for caregivers to forget to take care of themselves.

Here are some steps you can take to support yourself and other caregivers and stay on top of the situation.

Educate yourself 
Before your loved one was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, you may not have known much about the disease, or even heard of it. Though it’s the second-most common blood cancer, it’s not a common cancer by any means. So you’ll want to find out more about multiple myeloma, from prognosis to diagnosis to treatment options. Not only will this help you feel a bit more in control, but it will make healthcare appointments less overwhelming. In fact, if you’re in the room during appointments, your knowledge will help you ask follow-up questions and offer your loved one informed advice. 

Pace yourself 
Your needs—and both your physical and emotional health—are more important than ever when you are caring for another person. Make sure to continue to eat meals regularly and get enough sleep so that you can stay healthy. Sneak in exercise, too—even very short bursts can be very good for you.

And while you may not have the bandwidth to keep up with friends, hobbies, and routine social activities like you did before, at least make a point of checking in with close friends via phone or text—or, ideally, a quick get-together. Taking a walk or cooking a meal together can be a great way to catch up while you’re taking care of yourself. 

Delegate 
You wouldn’t expect your loved one to go through treatment without loved ones helping them, right? Don’t demand rigid independence of yourself, either. You don’t have to do it all, and to be able to keep helping for the long haul, you shouldn’t. You can ask others for help, from tackling chores to sending out updates. In fact, people are often eager to know how they can pitch in when trouble strikes.

Find people who get it
Support groups aren’t a good fit for everyone, but with options both online and in-person, you might find one that works for you. These communities understand—perhaps even more than friends and your family—exactly what you are going through. Plus, people there speak fluently about multiple myeloma, offering advice and sympathy from a place of intimate familiarity with the cancer. 

Watch for stress, depression, and burnout 
Some level of these feelings is perhaps natural. A loved one’s serious diagnosis and treatment is by its very nature going to stir up emotions. But, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, between 40 and 70 percent of caregivers experience symptoms of clinical depression. There’s a difference between feeling a bit blue and suffering from anxiety or depression. Learn to spot the signs of depression, such as trouble sleeping and weight changes. Reach out to a trained professional—a healthcare provider, social worker, or psychologist—if you have symptoms for more than two weeks. 

Even if you are not experiencing depression, extreme stress, or burnout related to caregiving, you may still find counseling sessions helpful. Talking to a trained professional can help you process complicated feelings. After all, you may simultaneously feel exhausted, frustrated by your loved one’s bad mood, and worried for their future. It’s a lot to deal with, and therapists are trained to help.  

Article sources open article sources

Donna Schempp. Family Caregiver Alliance. Caregiving 101: On Being a Caregiver. Accessed February 11, 2022.
Family Caregiver Alliance. Depression and Caregiving. Accessed February 11, 2022.
National Cancer Institute. Support for Caregivers of Cancer Patients. Updated August 6, 2020

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