When it comes to a cancer diagnosis, the caregiver is a critical member of a patient's support team. However, chances are they have no experience in their new-found role. A caregiver often wears multiple hats and may be tasked with tending to an array of medical, emotional, and domestic needs, while also handling responsibilities like coordinating and attending doctor appointments and treatments or completing insurance paperwork.
It's no surprise caregiver fatigue, burnout, and guilt are all common, and caregivers often become so focused on the patient, they neglect themselves. In honor of
National Caregiver's Month
, here are some tips caregivers can follow to help ease some of the stress associated with caring for others.
Take care of yourself. Stay on top of your own physical and psychological health. Be mindful of your diet, and make time to exercise. You will feel better and have more energy if you're healthy. Chronic stress can affect physical health.
Find a coping mechanism. Take a deep breath, go for a walk, connect with your faith etc. If you ﬁnd yourself harboring feelings of anger, for example, recognize it and learn how to process it. Many patients take their frustrations out on their caregivers. If this happens, try not to take it personally.
Forgive yourself and those who don't understand. You're human and will have days when you're short-tempered, grumpy, resentful, or worn out. Friends and family may be oblivious to the physical and emotional toll caregiving takes. It's a 24/7 responsibility and can be very draining.
Develop a support network, either online or in person. It's valuable to talk with others who are similarly situated. If you cannot ﬁnd a support group, ask a medical professional for recommendations.
Do things that aren't part of your caregiving responsibilities. Have lunch with a friend, see a movie, or continue a hobby you enjoy, like painting or reading. Engage in activities with the patient that are unrelated to cancer.
Ask for help and accept help when offered. Your loved ones likely want to help but may not know what you need. Keep a mental list of necessities, such as meals, rides, errands, or even sitting with the patient while you take a break or enjoy your children for a few hours.
Foster open communication with the patient. This allows both of you to express anxieties and fears. Experts say patients and caregivers often get caught up in thinking they have to remain positive for the other person, but they ﬁnd it's cathartic for both parties to talk about their feelings.
*This LiveWell article and photo is shared courtesy of Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) Phoenix