Taking Care of Yourself

Helping a cancer patient through their journey is one of the hardest jobs anyone can do. You may be asked to manage medications, set up and accompany loved ones to appointments, communicate with doctors and  healthcare team, make meals, take care of kids, be the patient’s main emotional support…The list goes on and on.

All of this can leave precious little time for you, assuming you don’t already have other major responsibilities like a job.

It’s critical to make time for you personally.  Your loved one is sick, but your well-being is very important as well. Pushing yourself too hard can make caregiving harder and your loved one is depending on you.

Here are some tips for taking care of yourself as a caregiver:

Eat right and exercise. This is very basic. Maintaining a healthy diet will give you the energy you need and help keep you from getting sick.  Exercise will keep your body strong and relieve stress.  Make time for it.

Set up a support network. Friends and family want to help, but they may not know how. Tell them what you need. Use the internet to coordinate support. There are sites like Lotsa Helping Hands and CaringBridge which have calendars that let friends sign up to bring you meals, pick up kids or any other helping deeds.

These sites also allow you post updates on your loved one’s condition. This can help by letting friends and family know what’s happening without making multiple phone calls or sending out dozens of emails.  This, in turn, opens up time for you to stay healthy and de-stress.

Go to a support group. There are many resources for caregivers, including support groups that allow you to discuss your experiences with other people who are dealing with the same problems. If you try one that doesn’t feel like a good fit, try another one.  Some are definitely more upbeat and helpful than others and it is a personal fit.

Speak with a counselor. Your insurance plan may cover the cost of seeing a therapist. At Gynecologic Oncology Institute, we work with Providence Saint John’s social workers who can help.

Talk to someone who’s been there. Many caregivers want to speak with someone who’s dealt with the same problems. They can give you valuable insights and tips.