Ten Ways to Care for the Caregiver

Author: OncoLink Team
Content Contributor: FOCUS on Oncology: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Last Reviewed:

Cancer is a twenty-four-hour affair. As with other long term illnesses, you may become emotionally drained as you care for your loved one and worry about the changes that may occur in them. But their well-being depends directly on your well-being. You can take care of yourself by:

  • Arrange for planned time away from the task of twenty-four-hour care. Do things just for you!
  • Share your challenges: there is a lot of benefit from talking with other individuals who are familiar with the illness and caregiving.
  • Avoid isolation, as it may lead to depression. DO NOT cut off ties to non-cancer related activities because "you don't have time." It's okay to go to your book club, church or out to lunch with friends.
  • Find additional help in caring for the patient. This may include homecare (visiting nurses/home health aides), to individuals who can help clean the house, shop or take care of family pets.
  • Ask your social worker for help with financial concerns.
  • Go to appointments with the person you are caring for. Be assertive in getting the information that you need for the patient. You may wish to bring along a list of questions to ask the physician. Don't leave until you have received understandable answers you feel confident to share with others. 
  • It's ok to take time off--both with your family and alone. Ask your social worker about resources for respite care and family trips for those coping with cancer.
  • Include the patient in daily activities, even if all they can do is watch. Avoiding isolation is just as important for patients.
  • Talk with other caregivers in a formal support group setting.
  • Don't forget your own health needs: see your healthcare provider and dentist for regularly scheduled appointments.
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