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4 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers of Cancer Patients

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I woke this morning still tired. Exhausted really. (Funny, that’s how I woke up yesterday, too.) I woke up about every 35 minutes making sure I hadn't missed my alarm or a call from the hospital. I knew today would be a busy day as Grandpa started his next round of chemotherapy and Grandma had her own appointment with a doctor. Anticipation and nervousness never let me fully fall asleep…

Exhausted. Anxious. Overwhelmed. If you are the caregiver of a loved one with cancer, it is likely that you relate to all of these emotions expressed in the above excerpt of her caregiving journal. Transportation to and from appointments, frequent hospital stays, and the sheer scope and duration of the illness are challenges many caregivers of cancer patients face. What is a caregiver to do when caring for another leaves little room for caring for oneself?

Here are a few suggestions that may provide relief.

1. Invite others in.
As the primary caregiver, no one knows your loved one’s situation as intimately as you do. You may find it hard to break away or trust others to take your place, even in the simplest of tasks, but this is exactly why you should. Inviting a friend or family member to pitch in can be a breath of fresh air for all involved, and it gives you a much-needed break.

2. Delegate transportation.
Consider allowing a friend or family member to serve as taxi on appointment days. Between treatments, doctor visits and follow-ups, a cancer patient’s calendar can be grueling to maintain alongside your other day-to-day responsibilities. Delegating your loved one’s transportation to and from appointments to a trusted third party may bring some relief to your strained schedule. If family and friends are not available, consider contacting your local Home Instead® franchise office to inquire about transportation services as a convenient alternative.

3. Take a coffee break.
Or, take a walk, do some yoga, or just do a little bit of nothing at all. No matter how busy and stress-filled the days get, taking quiet moments for yourself is essential to your wellbeing. As a caregiver, what is essential to your wellbeing is essential to your loved one’s wellbeing. Be intentional about carving out a few minutes several times a day to do something that refreshes you, however simple that something might be.

4. Remember.
The work you are doing is hard work, but it is also good work. Yes, caring for a cancer patient can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining, but your efforts are vitally important. You are making a real, tangible difference in the life of someone you love. Don’t give up, but do take care of yourself.

For more self-care tips, read Caregivers Need Care Too: Tips on Managing Caregiver Stress.

Last revised: March 12, 2014

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. November 3, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Posted by Corinne Marie

    My family members really don't get this at all. They think I sit around and watch TV all day, and have said as much to me. I have not had any time off since I moved here over 3 years ago. I mentioned taking care of myself and was ridiculed for it. Some days it's just really hard to see the good in it, when you are so burnt out.


    • November 6, 2016 at 8:32 am | Posted by Barbara

      I understand the pain that you are feeling right now. My husband has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Prostate Cancer. It can be treated, but not cured. People do not understand that when a member of your household has Cancer, everyone has it. We are raising our little great-grandson. Instead of some family members actually showing up, they say they are coming and they do not even call. Then, when I do not stop doing what I have to do (appointments, Chemo treatments, school situations) to call and give them a play-by-play, they insult me. I have cried so many lonely tears. I know that they love him and that they are busy. Instead of just saying they do not have the time to help, the promise and then do not show up or call until they are angry with me for slighting them in some way. I am learning to continue to do what I do and take care of my husband every day without expecting anyone to understand. I will always do my best as you are. Please do not let them make you cry anymore. If you do not take care of yourself, who is going to take care of your family member? God's grace. Much love.


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