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The patient paradox: Planning for the future, while living in the moment

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celebrating_caregiver_5_tips_to_help_manage_the_caregiving_role.JPGBy Sarah Hines, Social Work Counselor

"Happy is the person who knows what to remember of the past, what to enjoy in the present, and what to plan for in the future." - Arnold H. Glascow

It's normal for patients and loved ones to get caught up in "planning mode" during cancer treatment. However, it is important not to  forget the joy of living.

Planning for the Future
Here are some tasks you might consider as you plan for your or your loved one's future:

•Medical Decision-Making: Do you have a clear understanding of your diagnosis, treatment plan, current medications and prognosis? Keep a running list of questions for your multi-disciplinary team. Visit the Learning Center for up-to-date educational materials from reputable resources.

Have you had a discussion with your loved ones about your end-of-life decisions? Complete Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will documents. Social Work can assist with these documents.

  • Living situation: Reevaluate your current living situation. Are you currently independent with your activities of daily living, like cooking, cleaning, toileting and bathing? Would you benefit from a higher level of care?
  • Employment: Evaluate your current employment situation. Are you currently able to work due to your cancer diagnosis and treatment? What does your future look like from an employment perspective? Have you selected appropriate health insurance, disability plans, retirement plans and life insurance plans through your employer?
  • Coping: Are you making sure that your emotional needs, as well as those of your  partner,  children, and  other loved ones are met? Talk with your Social Work counselor to discuss available counseling and coping resources.
Living in the Moment
Here are some suggestions for you and your loves ones as you live in the moment:

  • Plan an adventure: Consider going on that vacation you've always wanted to take. Talk to your team about your ability to travel and safety measures to take while you are away.
  • Explore Houston: If you're in town for treatment spend a relaxing day away from the hustle and bustle of the hospital. Whether you're a sports fan, a foodie, an arts lover or a family looking for some fun, Houston has something to offer.
  • Give back: Find a way to give back to those around you. Share your experiences as a survivor with another patient, perhaps through the Anderson Network support group. Talk about your experience in a support group or at a conference.  Others will benefit from your experience.
  • Strengthen bonds: Find time in your schedule for family members and friends. Plan a regular date night with your significant other. If you're a parent, dedicate time every day to spend with your children, even if you are just resting together.
  • Serve your spiritual needs: If it is important to you, find time each day to nurture your spiritual journey, whatever path it may take. Chaplains are available to support MD Anderson patients and caregivers inclusive of all spiritual traditions and practices.
These suggestions can help you and your loves ones strike a balance between planning for the future and living in the here and now.  For more information, contact the Social Work department at 713-792-6195.

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