Tips for Caregivers

Caregivers are at increased risk for physical and mental health problems, so remember to take excellent care of yourself. Eat well, get sufficient sleep, take breaks, and find ways to manage stress. Learn to say yes when assistance is offered. This is especially true if you are the primary caregiver.

Listen; don’t try to fix.

It is common that caregivers feel the need to “do something” or “help,” as you might often feel helpless while caring for someone you love. Many times the greatest gift you can give to your loved one is to just listen. Communication can become strained when one person is trying to express feelings and the other is looking to find practical solutions and make everything all right. It is important that both of you are able to express your feelings and have them validated. Remember that by listening, you are “doing something.”

Keep in mind the importance of balancing realistic optimism and the reality that we are not in control of everything in our lives. It is often natural for a caregiver to want to be a cheerleader or encourage your loved one to have a positive attitude, but this is not always the most helpful. Be honest. Share your feelings. Listen. Reflect back to one another you hear being said. Usually this type of sharing and honesty brings people closer together.

Be flexible.

You and the person with cancer may need to reassess and reassign the old roles and household tasks. Communication and clear expectations are important. A therapist can help you navigate these discussions. Additionally, the use of humor, gratitude, and a spiritual connection can help to regain a sense of well-being during the cancer experience.

Support children.

If you have concerns about children in your family, Life with Cancer can provide resources such as support groups for children and teens, articles, videos, and books that can be useful. Support resources are also available for adult children.

Let us take care of you.

If the illness is ongoing, if problems in coping persist, if you have a sense of being overwhelmed by a crisis, feel isolated, or just would like some concrete suggestions of help, a support group such as the Life with Cancer Caregivers Connection or individual counseling can be an invaluable safe place to discuss your own frustrations and challenges.

Relax.

Learn, practice, and use relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, prayer, relaxation tapes, and exercises. Many classes that teach these techniques are available at Life with Cancer or in individual sessions with an oncology therapist.

Talk.

Talk about your problems with someone you trust, with a Life with Cancer oncology therapist, or in a group such as the Caregivers Support Group.

Take a break.

Take time out for yourself—read, listen to music, exercise, get lunch with a friend, journal, organize a closet, sew, watch a favorite movie—anything to take a break.

Stay healthy.

Maintain good nutrition by including complex carbohydrates and proteins in your diet and drinking water and non-caffeinated hot beverages. Beware of too much caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco products. Exercise, indoors or outdoors—it is a great stress reducer. Many exercise classes offered by Life with Cancer are available for caregivers to attend!

Laugh.

Hang onto your sense of humor! Look for opportunities to laugh. Have friends email you funny pictures or quotes daily.

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