Tips in a Minute: Caregiving Basics

OncoLink Team
Last Modified: May 15, 2014

OncoLink Tip in a Minute

What is a Caregiver?

  • A caregiver manages the physical, emotional, spiritual, and practical needs of another person, all while managing their own life, needs, family and career.

Who is a caregiver?

  • Caregivers are typically family members—spouses, children, and sometimes more distant family members such as nieces, uncles or even friends.
  • Depending on the needs of the person being care for, caregiving may take more than one person - a caregiving team.

What are the roles and tasks of caregiving?

  • The roles of caregiving include:
    • Skilled communication with the patient and others involved in the patient's care
    • Multi-tasking and organization
    • Being a patient advocate
    • Commitment and dedication to the needs of the individual
    • Being flexible
    • Having respect and compassion for the patient
  • The tasks of caregiving:
    • Physical: including bathing, dressing, feeding, turning, repositioning
    • Emotional: including companionship and support
    • Practical: including transportation to appointments, food shopping and meal preparation, bill paying
  • What's in it for the caregiver?
    • Caregiving can be a rewarding, rich, meaningful experience.
    • It provides individuals with the opportunity to love, support, bond, share and be together
    • Opportunity to give back through providing care
    • The knowledge that your loved one is getting the best possible treatment
    • Caregiving is a gift to your family member and yourself

Asking for help

  • It takes a village to provide adequate physical, emotional and practical care for another individual. It may be necessary to delegate caregiving tasks to multiple family members. It is important that this happens BEFORE the caregiving actually needs to be provided. Sit down as a group WITH the patient and discuss their needs. The patient may not think they need help because they have family involved, but the family has to be realistic with what they can handle. Discuss the plan with the following considerations:
  • What type of care does the individual need?
  • How often does the individual need help?
  • Does the individual need 24-hour supervision/companionship?
  • What are our abilities as individuals AND as a group to provide care?
  • How can we fill in gaps in our ability to provide care?
  • If we can't provide this type of care, what are other options, including private duty (paid) care or short/long term care placement?

Caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue

  • A caregiver must also take care of him/herself. This is called "self-care."
  • Self-care includes, getting sleep, eating regular meals, maintaining relationships with other family members, exercise, engaging in hobbies and reflecting on the caregiving experience.
  • The ability to delegate tasks to others is key. Remember to ask for help.
  • Caregivers who ignore their own needs can be at a higher risk for caregiver burnout, as well as physical and mental health problems.
  • Don't forget activities that you enjoy! Take breaks. Meditate. Get a massage. Play games on your phone. Read a chapter of a book. Watch an episode of your favorite old sitcom.
  • It is okay to disconnect, even for a few moments, to re-charge your batteries. You will be a better caregiver if you are not only able to meet the needs of your loved one, but also your own needs.

Caregiving Resources

Learn more about caregiving on OncoLink

Lots a Helping Hands provides online tools to help you manage caregiving needs, including creating a needs calendar.

Sign Up Genius enables you to build a customized sign up for anything you may need- from meals to housecleaning to a respite care schedule.

MyLifeline and Caring Bridge allows you to easily create a webpage to provide updates on the patient's condition to friends and family, as well as creating a needs calendar and other helpful tools.

NCI Publication: Caring for the Caregiver and American Cancer Society Publication: Coping as a Caregiver


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