Submitted by the Community Cancer Center
The role of the “cancer patient caregiver” is extensive and includes spouses, family members, friends, and professional healthcare workers who care for the patient on a daily basis. Many caregivers experience stressful times, as they seek to minister to the physical, emotional, and even spiritual needs of their loved ones. Although many caregivers would never have it any other way, their role is tiring and sometimes frustrating. Many caregivers also have to take on more family or childcare responsibilities. Additional loads… additional stress. Many caregivers simply feel that they can never really do enough. Whether it is limited knowledge, limited resources, or a matter of limited energy, they often struggle on, bravely facing each new day with hope and love. For those of you who wear the hat of “caregiver” so well, the following are some suggestions to help you through this time.
Take care of yourself. Self-care will ensure that you do not burnout and end up emotionally or physically depleted. It is critical that you also have rest and time to get away for a little while. You need to have some activities that “fill you up,” and enable you to feel refreshed when returning home to care for your loved one.
Ask for help from other family, friends, or even members of your faith communities. So often, such folks are more than ready to help, and may be waiting for an indication from you that such help would be well received. However, you need to be specific as to how they may help. Suggestions include staying with the patient for a couple of hours, preparing certain recipes, helping with the yard work or house work, or running certain errands for you. If you find that you have a limited number of people to call on for help, check with the patient’s doctor, or seek out the services of a social worker from your loved one’s treatment facilities.
The most important thing about self-care is that you don’t feel guilty! It is far better for you to eat well, rest well, and care for yourself, so that you may be able to continue caring for your loved one in the way you would wish. Make sure you keep up with your own routine health visits. Don’t forget to take your prescribed medication and make time for those blood tests, mammograms, check ups, flu shots, etc.
Watch for those signs of high stress in yourself. How are you coping emotionally? Are you feeling overwhelmed, “down,” anxious, tense, or have a “short fuse?” Are you feeling less able to make decisions, or feel that it is difficult to concentrate? Are you having problems sleeping, or notice changes in your appetite? If you have answered “yes” to these symptoms, and increased self-care and rest have not improved things, please seek professional help as you may be experiencing a clinical depression that will need medical intervention.
Yes, caregiving can be a lonely task. However, you need not be alone and using the resources of friends, family, and professionals will ease the burdens. In turn, this will enable you to be refreshed and have energy to enjoy, treasure, and celebrate the time you have with your loved one. You, your family, and your care receiver will thank you.
- Take care of yourself.
- Ask for help from other family, friends, or even members of your faith communities.
- Watch for those signs of high stress in yourself.
The Community Cancer Center offers a variety of free supportive and educational programs to help patients and families cope with cancer and its effects. For more information, go to www.cancercenter.org.