by Karen Irwin, Project Coordinator
As a caregiver, it is important to remember: it is not selfish to look after yourself. In fact, it is vital that you do. Caring for yourself is one of the most important things you can do as a caregiver. Taking care of your loved one during cancer treatment can be overwhelming and exhausting; try to treat it like a marathon, not a sprint. Learning to pace yourself, look after yourself and accept help from your support system will help you in the long run. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Identify your support system. You may find it helpful to join a support group in your community or online. Talking to other caregivers may give you a sense that you’re not alone. Accept support from your friends and family.
- Gather information. Your loved one’s health care team can provide you with pertinent information related to their disease which can help you accommodate their needs. You can also access information from the internet or support groups.
- New routines. As a caregiver, your daily activities will change. You will have added daily chores and appointments, and you may be asked to help with decision-making and information-gathering for your loved one. Remember this is a temporary change. Try to balance your own schedule with your loved one’s needs.
- Rejuvenate. Try to take time for yourself. Relax. As a caregiver, it is easy to become overwhelmed, depressed or burned out. When you start to feel this way, try to recharge physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Maintain relationships. Remember, cancer survivorship is a marathon. On stressful days, you’ll need to call on your close friends and family for support. As a caregiver, it’s important to lead your own life and maintain your personal relationships for your own well-being.
- Future plans. One of the biggest challenges to caregiving is “uncertainty” about the future. Try to plan activities on days when your loved one is well, it gives you both something to look forward to and will lift your spirits. Also, it is important to make sure your and your loved one’s legal paperwork is in order.
- Accept help. Many of your friends and family may want to help you, but they may not know how. Try to identify ways you could use help so you’re ready when they ask. Remember: it’s ok to accept help.
- Maintain YOUR health. Go for check-ups, screening, get proper sleep, maintain a balanced diet and physical activity regime. Looking after your own health will ensure you’re able to continue looking after your loved one.
- Stress management. Explore techniques that help you relieve stress, such as music, art, meditation, prayer, guided imagery.
- Know your limits. When you start to feel overwhelmed, try to remember you are only one person, you can only do so much. Know your limits and ask for help when you’ve reached them.
Do you have anything to add? Please leave me your comments!