How to Practice Self-Care as a Caregiver

November 21, 2017

For our 35th anniversary year, as part of our Fall Cancer Awareness campaign, the Cancer Support Community would like to highlight how you can support someone with cancer so that you or your loved ones can feel “sustained by community.”

Caregivers are the unsung heroes of a cancer patient’s medical team. They’re the ones behind the scenes making doctor’s appointments, deciphering medical bills, providing transportation, helping make treatment decisions and offering emotional support.

A caregiver is anyone who provides physical, emotional, financial, spiritual or logistical support to a loved one with cancer. Their jobs aren’t easy. The Caregiver Action Network estimates that during any given year more than 65 million people in the U.S. spend about 20 hours each week caring for an ill, disabled or aged family member or friend.

Caregivers are one of the most indispensable components of our health care resources, but people often forget that those who dedicate themselves to supporting others also need support. Caring for a cancer patient often results in emotional distress, especially because no one wants to see someone they love in pain.

There are ways for caregivers to make sure that they don’t sacrifice their well-being for someone else. Here are some easy ways to do just that.

Be comfortable accepting help from others

Caregivers often feel like it is their job to help their loved one with cancer in whatever way they can, but that can take a toll. There are other people who are willing and happy to help you and your loved one, so don’t feel like you have to do everything.

It’s okay to admit that it’s difficult.

“I started going to therapy because watching my mom go through cancer was really emotionally difficult,” Maddie Buyers said, a CSC communications intern whose mom was diagnosed with Stage III Breast Cancer in 2016. “I felt guilty because it felt like I was being selfish, but I couldn’t help what I felt.”

Watching a loved one go through something as difficult as cancer is emotionally taxing, and it’s best to acknowledge and work through those feelings. It may not be as bad as being diagnosed with cancer yourself, but that doesn’t diminish that fact that it still is a difficult and scary life adjustment for you as well.

Find ways to cope

Don’t let this disease take over your life. Learn how to determine what problems you can fix, and what is out of your control. Make sure to take time for yourself to relax, destress and spend quality time with your loved one that does not center around his or her cancer diagnosis.  

Check out the Caregiver’s Registry Report, and sign up to the Cancer Experience Registry to share your story.