Post-Op Tips for Caregivers and Supporters

When someone you love goes through breast reconstruction, it can be tough to know what to do. We’ve put together a few simple things to keep in mind as you figure out how to best support your loved one.

Follow the platinum rule: treat others the way they want to be treated.

One of the most important things you can do to support someone is ask them what they actually need. It is wonderful to want to do something nice for someone, but your idea of what would be nice or helpful may not line up with theirs. Remember that your gestures should be about their wellbeing. Include them in the process as you craft your support.

Practical support is often the most effective.

Some patients are hesitant or unable to articulate their needs. In those moments, practical support with things like meals, childcare, errands, and home chores tends to carry the greatest impact. These seemingly boring or commonplace interventions can alleviate stress and frustration. It is a good practice to determine whether daily-living bases are covered before you go ahead and suggest a more “fun” treat or outing that the patient does not suggest on their own.

When the person you’re supporting does speak up, listen.

This simple advice can help avoid a world of frustration. Caregivers and folks within patient support systems often feel compelled to try to go an extra mile or do something that they think would be better or “more” than what their loved one clearly requested. In most cases, this merely serves to disempower patients who are already feeling helpless or otherwise diminished.

Patients are people—and so are you!

Breast reconstruction is a physically and emotionally trying process. Patients experience a range of emotions. Your support is unlikely to be perfect. So, too, is their behavior. Give both you and your loved one grace in difficult moments.

Primary caregivers should remember self care.

It can be easy to lapse into a routine that is fully focused on your loved one as a primary support person or caregiver. Remember that you are not infallible. Exhaustion and frustration are inevitable consequences of the human condition. It does not serve you or your patient to burn out. Ensure that you are taking adequate physical and emotional breaks and restoring yourself as you see fit.