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I feel overwhelmed about caring for a friend who is terminal


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ill .. she has stage four cancer...it started as lung carcinoid and soon metastasized all over her body specially her liver and spleen..... We are very close friends, close enough to depend on each other but I do not feel strong enough to provide the support she needs. I stay with her at her home at nights, we live in the same building, but a part of me feels I have lost my privacy without consent...we had been apart for a couple of years and re started our friendship when she became ill...her family is out of the country they live in so. america ..and the care has been left to myself and another childhood friend. I cover during the week and the other friend during weekends...the problem is that often the weekend friend bails out and I feel I am "STUCK" with what has become for me a problem.. I love her with all my heart but I am not strong enough to carry this load and I feel I am being pushed to do so....I can not talk to her about it because she starts to cry understandably so...so I am stuck swallowing the problem...I don't know what to do...I dont know how long she has left...I dont know what I will do if she passes away under my care and Ir really think I need help....

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Hi Artloft:

I really don't have any emotional answers for you since I'm not a caregiver. I'm sure some others will be along soon to post to your concerns.

In the meantime, I was wondering if there was any way for your friend to get a home health care worker or hospice involved? I'm assuming if you need to help her bathe and that the cancer is "all over her body" that these options would be available to her. This would give you some slack and you would have time to be her friend again instead of her nurse.

My one suggestion would probably be to vent either here or with other people, rather than with your friend. I'm sure she is just as sorry that you have been thrust in this role as you are..

That said, I respect and appreciate your honesty in your post. I understand what you are saying and hope that you will continue to come here. Hang in there....

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If you're friend has been dx'd terminal check into getting hospice involved as soon as possible. Also, if where you live has programs that send folks into the home to help with cleaning, laundry, driving to and from dr. appointments check those out right away. Your county or state social services office should be able to get you on the right track.


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Debi and Dean have given you excellent advice. She needs the hospice care to make her comfortable and you need the support they can provide. Get them involved as soon as possible.

I know this is hard...I know you're stressed and probably bone tired...but know that the sacrifice you are making will be worth it.

Your friend is so lucky to have you.


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we did try hospice care but they said she was not quite there and as friends we have tried talk to her about finding a nurse to come and help. In truth I put myself in her place and I know all I would want would be for family or friends to be there. not a nurse I did not know. I am looking into finding some help or nurse aid...I think being able to come here and post without being judged has help me take this load off my chest... I can not talk to her because she is very sensitive, I'm sure the morphine doesnt help much in dealing with emotions... I feel good enough for today and today is all we have the now...I sneaked out to feed my dogs...reading your post has given me a new clean slate .I do not want to be angry with her it is not her fault nor mine it is just a life lesson we need to solve, resolve and accept. Life is very precious and health is a luxury we must embrace...warm thoughts and hugs to all...I must go now and will return when I can thanks.

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Dear Artloft,

God bless you for loving and caring for your friend, even though it has been so difficult for you.

That being said, you can only take so much. I'm glad to hear that you are talking about getting some help. The nurses that will help take care of her will not be strangers after just a couple of days and will also become her friends. My dad's nurses fell in love with him in a short time, and he with them.

If you continue to push they way you have been, then you will also become ill. God understands that this is too much for you alone. Please get some help as soon as possible.

Hugs for you and your friend.



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My heart goes out to you for doing what you feel you should, even at too great a cost to yourself. Her tears aside, you can only do what you can do for one human being. She has to understand you are not superman, and you need some help.

Do what you can to get others involved , people from the community, hospice, from church, from ACS.... There are good hearted people willing to spell you so it doesn't become more than you can handle too.

Prayers for your friend, and prayers for you too. You are a compassionate man whose heart is in the right place.



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Artloft; I hope you get home nurse care set up. My family used it for my brother. They would come in for a few hours each day. But all of us siblings took turns staying with my brother anyway. Having the home care nurse there, took a lot of pressure off us and we could focus on just being there to visit and support him.

Don M

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Everyone else has already said just about everything I'd know to say. I copied this info from a website; maybe you'll find some ideas in it.

Cancer: When You're a Caregiver

A caregiver is someone who gives basic care to a person who has a medical condition, such as cancer, that prevents him or her from independently doing activities of daily living. The caregiver helps the person with tasks such as preparing and eating food, taking medicine, bathing and dressing.

As a caregiver, what can I do to make caregiving easier on me?

Being a caregiver takes a lot out of you -- physically and emotionally. It's important to your health not to ignore your own needs while you care for someone else. The following are some things you can do to make sure you stay as healthy as possible during your loved one's illness:

Make wellness a priority. You may feel like you have to "do it all," regardless of the toll it takes on you. However, one of the most important things you can do for your loved one is to take care of yourself by doing the following:

Visit your doctor for regular check-ups. Eat a balanced diet. This may be easier than you think because you may be sharing meals with your loved one, who will also need to eat well.

Get plenty of rest. If you're short on sleep, take naps when your loved one does.

Get some exercise. Thirty to 60 minutes of exercise 4 to 6 times a week can give you more energy, reduce stress and lift your mood.

Do relaxation exercises--such as deep breathing or meditating--to reduce stress.

Take a break from caregiving. If you take some time for yourself, you'll be better able to take care of your loved one.

Stay organized. Caregiving is often a full-time job, but it may be done on top of your other responsibilities, such as working or taking care of children. Make a schedule with your family. This will help all of you stay organized and will help you manage the demands on your time. Don't forget to schedule time for things you enjoy, such as seeing friends, playing cards or going to the movies.

Create a support team. Plan for times when you'll need help by making a list of people who are willing to help. Family members, friends and respite care workers can give you a break or help out when you can't be there. On your list, include their phone numbers, the times they are available and the tasks they feel most comfortable doing. Keep a copy of the list with you at all times in case you're away from home when you need to ask someone for help.

Set boundaries. Accept that there is a limit to what you can do as a caregiver. Recognize when you feel overwhelmed, and ask for help in caring for your loved one.

Is it normal to have so many different feelings about being a caregiver?

Caring for a loved one who is seriously ill is never easy. At times you may feel scared, angry, sad or lonely. You may also feel guilty. All of these feelings are normal, but you must learn to tell them apart from the signs of depression and stress-overload. These signs are listed in the box below. Call your doctor if you notice any of these signs. He or she can help.

Signs of Stress-Overload

Excessive anger towards the person you care for, your family or yourself

Social withdrawal


Extreme tiredness

Sleep problems (sleeping too much or not enough)


Health problems (catching every "bug" that goes around)

Signs of Depression

No interest or pleasure in things you enjoy

Feeling sad or numb

Crying easily or for no reason

Feeling slowed down or feeling restless and irritable

Feeling worthless or guilty

Change in appetite; unintended change in weight

Trouble recalling things, concentrating or making decisions

Headaches, backaches or digestive problems

Sleep problems (sleeping too much or not enough)

Thoughts about death or suicide

How can I cope with my emotions?

Talk to your loved one and your family. You may feel like you shouldn't burden people with your feelings because you're not the one who is sick. However, talking about the illness and how you feel can help relieve stress. If your loved one is unable to participate, be sure to talk about how you are feeling with other family members or friends who can provide support.

Educate yourself about cancer. Find out all you can about the kind of cancer your loved one has, the treatment he or she is going through, and its side effects. Being informed is a good way to regain a sense of control. Your loved one's doctor, support groups, the Internet and libraries are good resources for more information.

Join a support group. Support groups give you the opportunity to share your feelings and experiences with people who are going through similar situations. Your doctor can suggest ways to find a support group, or you can contact the American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute (see information under "Other Organizations").

Seek counseling. Sometimes it's helpful to talk with a counselor about how you're feeling. This is not sign of weakness. Recognizing that you need help takes a lot of strength and courage. Talk to your doctor. He or she can help you or refer you to a doctor or therapist who specializes in counseling.

Other Organizations

American Cancer Society


National Cancer Institute's Support Information


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