Caregiving for someone with multiple myeloma

Taking care of someone with cancer can take its toll physically and emotionally. Here’s how to support yourself while you provide care.

Two women with their arms around each other offer support—they're caring for cancer patients they love at home.

Updated on April 5, 2024.

When someone is diagnosed with multiple myeloma, the focus of family, friends, healthcare providers, and others involved in their treatment is often on the person who has cancer.

But caregivers and loved ones are also affected. Providing emotional and practical support, such as transportation to healthcare appointments, household chores, helping someone with cancer cope with their emotions can take its toll. Along the way, it's typical for caregivers to forget about taking care of themselves.

Here are some steps you can take to support yourself and other caregivers when you're caring for someone with cancer.

Educate yourself 

Before becoming involved in the care of someone with multiple myeloma, you may not have known much about the disease, or even heard of it. Multiple myeloma is the second-most common type of blood cancer. It develops in a certain kind of white blood cells in the bone marrow, and can cause tumors in bones throughout the body. As a caregiver, it can help to learn about diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis (chances of recovery) for muktiple myeloma. Not only will this help to create a sense of control over the situation, but it can make healthcare appointments less overwhelming. If you’re in the room during appointments, your knowledge will help you ask questions and offer informed advice. 

Pace yourself 

Your needs—both physical and emotional—are more important than ever when you are caring for another person. Make sure to continue to eat meals regularly and get enough sleep so that you can stay healthy. Try to exercise as you are able—even short bursts can be good for you.

And while it may not be easy to make time for friends, hobbies, and routine social activities, try to check in with close friends via phone or text—or, ideally, meet in person, even if it's for a short time. Taking a walk or cooking a meal together can be a great way to catch up while you’re taking care of yourself. 

Delegate 

You don’t have to do it all. To be able to keep helping for the duration of cancer treatment, you shouldn’t try to do it all. You can ask others for help, from doing chores to sending out updates. In fact, people are often eager to know how they can help during challenging situations like cancer treatment.

Find people who understand

Support groups may not be for everyone, but with options both online and in-person, you might find one that works for you. In these communities you may find people who understand—perhaps even more than friends and family—what you are going through. Plus, people in support groups may know a lot about multiple myeloma, offering advice and sympathy because they have experienced this type of cancer and are familiar with it. 

Watch for stress, depression, and burnout 

Some amount of these feelings can be natural in response to a diagnosis of cancer and the challenges of treatment in someone you know. But, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, between 40 and 70 percent of caregivers experience symptoms of clinical depression. Learn to spot the signs of depression, such as trouble sleeping and weight changes. Reach out to a trained professional—a healthcare provider, social worker, or psychologist—if you have symptoms for more than two weeks.

Even if you do not feel like you are experiencing depression, stress, or burnout related to caregiving, you may still find counseling sessions helpful. Talking to a trained professional can help you understand complicated feelings. It's common to feel exhausted, frustrated when the person you're caring for has mood swings, and worried for their future. It’s a lot to deal with, and therapists are trained to help.  For questions about mental health support and how your insurance may help cover, speak with your healthcare provider.

Article sources open article sources

Donna Schempp. Family Caregiver Alliance. Caregiving 101: On Being a Caregiver. Accessed February 11, 2022.
Family Caregiver Alliance. Depression and Caregiving. Accessed February 11, 2022.
National Cancer Institute. Support for Caregivers of Cancer Patients. Updated August 6, 2020

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