08 Oct Tips for Cancer Caregivers
Becoming a caregiver for a family member or friend can be intimidating. The role of caregiver can become even more exhausting if you don’t find time to take care of yourself. Taking a few breaks each week to do the things you enjoy will help make you an even better caregiver for your loved one. Maintaining part of your old lifestyle, whether it’s grabbing dinner with friends, going to a workout class, or just curling up to read a good book, will help you reduce stress and be an even stronger support system to the person you are helping fight cancer. By taking time to for yourself and learning how you can help your friend or family member, you will be able to provide compassionate care and learn more about yourself along the way. For more tips on how to cope with becoming a caregiver, we turned to our friend and partner, Sara Goldberger. In her article, Tips for Cancer Caregivers, she outlines ten tips to help you become stronger and gain control of your new role as a caregiver.
- Have a Support Syste: One way to cope with the emotions of your new role as caregiver is to talk with others who share similar experiences. Finding a support group will help you learn from others and reduce feelings of isolation. There are a few types of support group. You might prefer face-to-face, telephone, or online meetings. Assistance from a healthcare provider, faith-based communities, or toll-free helplines are also great options.
- Be Informed: Take the time to learn about the cancer diagnosis your loved one has received. Understanding the stages, treatment options, and possible side effects of medications makes caring for someone with cancer easier and helps you feel more in control.
- Accept New Change: As you take on new tasks, you may need to adjust your old routines. You may be asked for advice on medical choices, managing finances, and taking on new daily chores. It is important to maintain a balance between these new tasks and the daily activities of your own life. You might have to order takeout instead of cooking at home or you might not have time to finish the last load of laundry, and that’s okay. One approach is to manage each day’s priorities as they come.
- Recharge and Unwind: It’s also valuable to take breaks by going for a walk around the block or closing your eyes for 10 minutes in a comfortable place. Taking time for yourself helps not just you, but helps you provide the best care for your loved one. Recharging your mind and body helps you avoid burnout and any other emotional effects you’re facing. It is also beneficial to seek spiritual rejuvenation in some way, whether or not you subscribe to a specific religion.
- Maintain Old Friendships: Many caregivers feel a loss of personal time over the course of a loved one’s illness. One way to combat this is to stay involved with your circle of friends and family through involvement in your community or setting a weekly visit with a best friend.
- Have a Plan for the Future: Uncertainty is a common feeling for both caregiver and patient throughout treatment and disease progression. Even though planning may be difficult, it can help. Schedule fun activities to break-up the monotony of going to appointments and going through treatment. It is also important to plan for the future through having all the necessary paperwork—such as: a power of attorney, advanced directives, and a will. Having this taken care of early will allow everyone peace of mind during this difficult time.
- Let Others Give You a Helping Hand: One way to help relieve some of the anxiety of being a caregiver is to let those who offer to help you pitch in. It can be helpful to create a list of all the caregiving tasks you need help with, so friends and family have specific choices. There are resources to help you manage tasks and set-up a schedule for friends and family to help you.
- Keep up Your Own Health: In order to be strong for your loved one, you also have to take care of yourself. Remember to schedule checkups, screenings, try to eat well, and get plenty of sleep.
- Use Stress Management Technique: Mind-body exercises, such as meditation, yoga, listening to music, or deep breathing helps to relieve stress. It has been shown that these practices also help enhance the immune system’s function and helps you relax, both physically and mentally.
- Do What You Can: Never forget that no one can do everything. You cannot handle everything alone, but together you can get through this difficult time. Acknowledge when you are feeling stressed, and remember that these feelings are okay and you will get through them.
Triage Cancer offers a number of resources to those coping with cancer, whether you need to understand your rights or to access financial support. Additionally, many of our partners can help you find the type of support you are looking for. If you are ever feeling alone during this hard time, remember that there are always people there to help you stay strong!
About the Cancer Support Community
The Cancer Support Community (CSC) is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support, education, and hope to people affected by cancer. Likely the largest employer of psychosocial oncology mental health professionals in the United States, CSC offers a menu of personalized services and education for all people affected by cancer. Its global network brings the highest-quality cancer support to the millions of people touched by cancer. These support services are available free of charge through a network of professionally led, community-based centers, hospitals, and community oncology practices, online and over the phone, so that no one has to face cancer alone. Learn more at cancersupportcommunity.org.