Caring for a loved one with cancer is an important job. You play a fundamental role in your loved one’s recovery. Yet, caregiving also has its challenges. Suddenly, you're in this new role and you may feel unprepared. It takes time and understanding to adjust to the changes.
Too often, caregivers put their own needs aside to focus on their loved one’s needs. Part of your job as a caregiver is to keep yourself well, too. It’s the only way to effectively care for your loved one.
In a recent national online survey, CTCA asked caregivers for their advice on how to cope, reduce stress and stay sane. Here are their top five suggestions.
Take care of yourself
Get plenty of rest and eat right. Set aside time for yourself and spend it however you want. Do whatever feels right for you when it comes to recharging your batteries and don’t feel guilty. Go for a run. Turn up the music. Scream until you can’t scream anymore. Schedule time for your favorite yoga class. Take a bath. Read a good book. Go to church. Dig in the garden. Spend an evening out with friends. Wander into a café and enjoy a cup of coffee at your own speed.
Ask for help
No one is coming to your rescue if they don’t know you need help. Asking for help doesn’t indicate a lack of love or concern for the patient. It’s just the opposite: It shows you care enough to realize you can’t do it all alone and you want the best for the patient.
Let things slide
Be patient with yourself and your loved one. Give yourself permission to let some things in your life slide and replace them with joyous moments: A kiss on the forehead. A whisper of love. A long hug. A good cry. Make your time together a priority. It’s the little things in life that can lead to the greatest joys.
Ask questions and keep it real
While it’s important to listen to the patient and let him or her make as many decisions as possible, get yourself comfortable with knowing how to take control when needed. Keep a running list of questions so you are armed with good information. You are the patient’s ears. That can be important when it’s time to make treatment decisions.
Connect with other caregivers who know what you’re going through
Caregiving can be as isolating as it is emotionally draining. There is no school for learning how to cope with the responsibilities and stress. Join a patient and caregiver support group like Cancer Fighters® to share your thoughts and feelings and learn from other people who can relate to your situation. If a support group isn’t your speed, check with your church, MeetUp.org, a local university or do a Google search. You’ll find comfort among people who understand what you’re facing.
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