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.
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
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
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:
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.
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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