Leukaemia Foundation

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Providing Support

Practical and emotional support is essential for everyone living with the demands of leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma and related blood disorders.

People living with these diseases need support to help them deal with the many demands of their illness and treatment. Diagnosis and treatment are challenging times when people need a lot of support. It is also important during times of relapse and recovery after treatment. While the need for support continues throughout the illness, the nature and the amount of this can change at different times.

Offering support is not always easy. While you may be only to willing to help if you can, you may feel awkward, or lack confidence about how to approach an unwell person. You may be afraid that you will say something insensitive or even stupid in front of them or their family.

Chances are, however, that you will do your very best and the unwell person and their family will appreciate that you are thinking about them, care for them and want to help them through a difficult time.

You may be unsure if the unwell person needs help at a particular time. In most cases it is best just to ask. If they do not need your assistance at that time, you could ask that they keep you in mind for other times when you could help. Many people find that they feel better within themselves when they are asked to, or allowed to support people they care about in this situation. Being able to help and feeling 'useful' may, to some extent, help relieve the sense of powerlessness or anxiety you may be feeling about your friend or loved one.

There are many different types of support needed by people living with these diseases. Some practical support may be required at different times. Most people feel comfortable providing this kind of support especially if they are guided by being given specific tasks. For example, helping with cooking, housework, picking up children, or taking care of the family pet. In some cases, friends and relatives devise a roster to help with the necessary day-to-day running of the household, especially where children are involved. byThe Leukaemia Foundation's staff can suggest lots ways in which you might be able to further assist your loved one.

Emotional support is also important. This involves being there to listen and offer comfort, understanding and encouragement. It's natural to feel uncomfortable, nervous or overwhelmed at times. If you feel overwhelmed or you 'don't know what to say' when talking to the person with cancer, just tell them so. They will probably understand and appreciate that you care for them and that you are doing your best. Most importantly, LISTEN to what they are telling you and allow them to be heard.

Where appropriate you could offer help by putting your loved one in contact with relevant services and organisations (including the Leukaemia Foundation) that provide practical, emotional and financial assistance for patients and families.

Practical help is available through organisations like Meals on Wheels, home care services, community nursing, and palliative care services. Financial support is available through pensions and benefits to help with the costs of travel, accommodation and some drugs. In special circumstances, the Leukaemia Foundation may also provide financial assistance for patients who are experiencing financial difficulties. A social/welfare worker will be able to help your loved one access these services.

Education and support programs can offer your loved one important information and a supportive environment for people to discuss issues important to them. Health professionals at treating hospitals and the Leukaemia Foundation will have information about relevant support programs in their area.