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Your role as caregiver for a lung cancer patient

As your loved one's caregiver, you may fill many roles and have many responsibilities. You are important. You are needed. And your attention and involvement can make a big difference in your loved one's care; too many patients lack someone like you in their lives.

What does it mean to be an "active participant" in your loved one's care?

It's important that a caregiver be a part of the team from the very beginning. That means you can help your loved one make decisions, plan treatment, and follow treatment instructions carefully.

To do this, you will need to be as informed as possible. Having the care team's perspective as well as your loved one's point of view can allow you to truly be the advocate you need to be.

What responsibilities can you expect?

Trying to learn how to help someone with cancer? As a caregiver, you may have many responsibilities for managing your loved one's overall care, including:

  • monitoring and writing down health needs
  • encouraging emotional well-being
  • helping your loved one follow treatments and make healthy lifestyle changes
  • managing insurance claims and bill payments

Serving as an advocate means you give voice to your loved one's needs and wishes.

This may include:

  • informing the care team of any changes, new symptoms or side effects, and asking for help in managing them
  • locating hard-to-find information
  • encouraging your loved one to speak up about his or her wants and needs

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There are different ways to help the ones you love

Bridge communications

Friends, family, and community play an important role in everyone's well-being. You can help channel those communications by answering calls, sending emails, or updating a daily blog so everyone who cares is informed. You can also find ways to build meaningful connections between your loved one and family, friends, neighbors, and others.

For example, you might arrange for a favorite relative to visit for the weekend.

Offer friendship or loving support

Before lung cancer, you already offered companionship to your loved one, whether as a friend or family member. Now, you might need to be around more often or make yourself more available, because your loved one really needs your support. This may mean you go from simply enjoying Sunday breakfasts together to attending medical appointments, running errands, and doing household chores.

Discuss treatment options with the care team and your loved one

It's important that you and your loved one discuss what is most important. Talk about what your loved one needs, establish priorities, and make sure any wishes are fully understood. Knowing these details can help ensure all discussions with the care team reflect your loved one's point of view.

Together, you might review treatment options with the care team (PDF) and ask questions to ensure both you and your loved one fully understand.


As a caregiver, you may feel alone or that no one understands. That couldn't be further from the truth.

Asking for help from YOUR support team is okay, too. You can't do it all, nor should you try. And it's fine to admit that. You'll only end up exhausted. And that won't serve you or your loved one well.

Who can you recruit for your support team? A spouse or partner, close friends and family members, neighbors, members of your faith community, even colleagues can offer timely support. Many people have been in a similar position and may welcome the chance to "pay it forward." There are also organizations that offer help to caregivers like you with services that range from counseling to free massages. Don't wait until you're exhausted to reach out for help— start your search now.

Expressing difficult thoughts

Getting the ones you love to talk about lung cancer isn't always easy, especially if they don't want to. If the script below helps you feel more comfortable, feel free to use it:

"You're not facing lung cancer alone. I'm here to help you through this and to support you any way I can. Whether you want to vent your frustration, share a good moment, or need help with something, I'm here for you 100%."


Meeting with the care team soon? Are you prepared to talk about treatment options or expectations? Educate the ones you love with a list of thoughtful questions.

NEXT: Working With Your Loved One's Care Team


Want valuable lung cancer information—delivered right to your inbox?

Sign up now >

How can a patient navigator help coordinate care?

Learn now >

Can’t talk about it? Write about it in our journal tool.

Write now >