Multiple Myeloma

The Caregiver’s Role

Caregivers serve an important and valuable role in taking care of a person with multiple myeloma. Just as there isn’t a playbook for cancer, there isn’t a job description for a caregiver. Multiple myeloma is a lifelong condition and your responsibilities, which take commitment and hard work, will require a wide range of skills. They can change without warning, which will require you to be flexible.

Learn as much as you can about multiple myeloma so you can provide both physical and emotional support. Although you may assist with daily tasks, such as preparing meals, helping with personal care, maintaining the household and managing paperwork, you may also need to help with daily planning and decision-making activities.

Attending medical appointments is an important task. In addition to driving your loved one to appointments, listen carefully and ask questions to help your loved one remember key information. You may take daily notes, and report progress and problems to the medical team during the visits.

Treating multiple myeloma may be like managing a chronic (long-term) condition. Medication adherence is vital. Medication schedules may be a challenge for some multiple myeloma patients to remember, and you may be called on to help give medication and monitor the schedule. If you assist with giving medication, you can report the progress and any problems to the doctor during regular visits.

Another aspect of helping with medications is monitoring and managing side effects. Learn which side effects to watch for and what to do if they occur. Addressing them properly can improve your loved one’s quality of life. Communicate with the medical team when side effects start so they can be managed right away. Some can be dangerous if left untreated, and you could help prevent a potentially life-threatening situation. Ask your loved one’s medical team if you should watch for additional concerns.

 

Caregiver Tip

If you are caring for someone who experienced stem cell transplantation, the medical team will provide additional instructions.

 

 

Don’t forget to take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Don’t feel selfish for focusing on yourself. Actually, taking a break allows you to be more alert and refreshed when you are taking care of your loved one. Be sure to make time to do the following:

  • Keep up with your own regular medical appointments, and share your role as caregiver with your doctor so he or she is aware of your added responsibilities.
  • Eat healthy. Prepare nutritious foods that you enjoy and that allow you to keep up your strength.
  • Be active. Try to set aside time for some type of physical activity at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Find activities that lower your stress level, such as mind-body relaxation techniques, reading or journaling.
  • Go out to lunch or meet a friend for coffee.
  • Read a book or see a movie.

You don’t have to bear the caregiving responsibilities alone. Ask for help from friends or family members who are willing to assist. If you don’t know anyone who can give you some relief, ask your medical team to recommend sources of support. Besides your medical team, nonprofit organizations and foundations, support groups and other experienced caregivers are also good resources. Remember that you are a source of support, a positive presence and an advocate for your loved one with multiple myeloma.

 

Healthy Nutrition During Treatment

As a caregiver, you can help your loved one get the right nutrition during treatment. Choose foods that nourish the body and help manage symptoms and side effects of medications. Prepare several small meals a day instead of three regular meals, and keep healthy snacks available in case your loved one is hungry between meals. Here are more tips for healthy meal preparation.

      What to Eat

  • Lean proteins, including chicken, fish and turkey, to help maintain immune system and repair cells and tissues.
  • Foods high in fiber, such as oatmeal, whole grains, nuts and beans, to keep energy up, break down food and keep bowels clear.
  • Bland foods, which will keep the stomach from getting upset during treatment. Keep low-fiber options, such as bananas, applesauce, toast, rice and broth, on hand if eating becomes difficult or uncomfortable.
  • Cooked fruits and vegetables, especially greens, for their cancer-fighting antioxidants and ability to fight constipation, a common side effect of pain medications and chemotherapy.
  • Foods with healthy fat, such as avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil, which are great substitutes for fried, greasy and fatty foods.
  • Nutritional drinks and shakes, which are another way to get enough calories and add essential vitamins.
  • Brightly colored fruits and vegetables rather than colorless side dishes, such as rice and white potatoes.
  • Juices, milk and pre-made nutritional beverages instead of soft drinks.
  • Look for the words “Excellent source of…” on food packaging, which means the food contains at least 20 percent of the recommended daily amount per serving.

      What to Avoid

  • Raw foods, such as sushi, uncooked fruits, vegetables and eggs, and undercooked meats. These foods can lower the immune system’s ability to fight infection.
  • Processed snacks, which contain unnatural ingredients.
  • Sweets, which are filling and often do not contain any nutrients.

 

Additional Resources

 

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