• Resources and Support for Cancer Caregivers

    Ten Tips to Help You Care for Yourself

    A woman looks out of a window. 

    If you're a caregiver, you may tend to neglect your own well-being. You may not eat a balanced diet, get enough exercise, or enjoy a full night's sleep. Compared to people who are not in a caregiver role, you are more likely to experience problems such as depression, anxiety, and anger.

    Your loved one's well-being depends in part on you, so it's important that you also take care of yourself.

    Pay attention to your needs, too. You're more likely to be a better caregiver when you are in good emotional and physical health. Get rest and exercise. Eat nutritious meals. Visit with friends. Try to keep a sense of humor.
    Read the booklet Taking Care of Yourself 

    Seek (and accept) help. Ask family and friends for help, and don't be afraid to delegate. When friends or family offer assistance, accept it. Feel free to suggest a specific activity for them, such as emailing health updates to friends and family.
    Read the booklet How to Create a Caregiving Plan 

    Share your feelings with others. Consider joining a support group, talking to another caregiver or talking with friends and family about the challenges and stresses of caregiving. You'll benefit from talking with others who understand your concerns.
    Find ways to connect with caregivers and counselors 

    "I found attending a support group very beneficial. It makes you feel less alone. I learned from members how important it is to take care of yourself, to do outside activities, to not be a caregiver 100 percent of the time."
    — Gail, caregiver to patient with myeloma.  

    Get organized. Reduce your daily stress by getting things in order. Use a notebook, binder, computer, or handheld electronic device to track appointments and contacts. Keep important papers such as insurance forms and medication lists easily accessible.
    Read the booklet How to Create a Caregiving Plan 

    A husband and wife at the kitchen table. 

    Plan ahead. It's a good idea to discuss decisions and preferences before they may be needed. Talk through medical, legal, and financial issues. If you're unsure what they might be, ask your health care team to help you determine what is important to consider.
    Learn about naming a health care agent 

    Ask questions. Don't hesitate to ask questions of your health care team. Solicit helpful resources from friends and family. If one agency or organization isn't able to help you, ask them for suggestions of other agencies you could approach instead.

    Work with your health care team. Talk with doctors and nurses about the best ways to manage side effects. Ask a nutritionist how to create a healthy eating plan for you and your loved one. Consult a social worker about your caregiving experience and other support services.

    Stay close to your loved one. Continue to do activities together that you both enjoy. Slow down and cherish this time together.

    "We didn't look at what might happen; we were present in that day. We made decisions of what we wanted to do on that day. If something happened, we said, OK, let's not get too bogged down with this."
    — Evelyn, caregiver of patient with oral cancer  

    Make peace with "good enough." The care provided by others, and even the care you provide, may not always meet your own standards. Try to recognize those circumstances when care is critical to health and when it isn't. Sometimes the care issue isn't life-threatening, is short-term, or is the best you can do under the circumstances.

    Watch for signs of burnout. Emotional and physical signs of caregiver stress can include:

    • Weight loss or gain
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Feeling depressed or overburdened
    • A tendency to overreact
    • Feeling guilty or inadequate

    If you notice any of these symptoms or want to reduce or relieve stress, seek help. Speak with a licensed social worker (LCSW or LICSW), psychiatrist, or counselor. You may also want to talk with a spiritual or religious advisor or attend a support group. This can help ease tension and put your experiences in perspective.

    Share your story

    If you have tips or stories to share, or suggestions for this caregiver section, we'd love to hear from you.

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