Caring for a loved one with health problems can be very rewarding. At the same time, it can be hard to meet your own need to take good care of yourself. The OSUCCC – James offers support groups as well as general tips on how to take care of yourself while taking care of a loved one with cancer.
Coping as a Caregiver
Giving care to someone with chronic medical problems is hard work. Exhaustion, worry, lack of resources and demands of constant caregiving can cause great stress.
Over time, you may not be able to meet your own needs as well. This stress, plus lack of attention to your well-being, can put you at increased risk for health problems.
Family caregivers are at risk for depression, sleep deprivation, infections, premature aging and chronic illness.
Take Care of Yourself
- Encourage other family members and caregivers to take care of their own needs and accept offers of help. By taking care of yourself, you will be better able to take care of your loved one.
Talk About It
- Talking can help. People respond differently to serious illness. Some patients and families may try to pretend or deny what is happening to them. Some families may not want a patient to be told about their disease or illness. For example, a family may try to “spare” their loved one from knowing a diagnosis or hearing about healthcare choices they may face in the future.
- Talk openly with each other. Not talking about an illness or hiding the truth from each other may push family members apart. If it is hard for a person to talk openly about illness, try to respect their wishes. Your nurse, social worker, and doctor can help you to talk with each other about difficult issues.
- Serious illness affects the family and caregivers as well as the patient. Family members may feel they could have done more for their loved one. Focus on what you can do for your loved one each day, instead of being concerned about the past.
- Serious illness can cause stress on a marriage or relationship. It may help to talk with a counselor about these issues. Counseling professionals are available to help you learn how to manage this stress. Tell your nurse if you would like to talk to a social worker, chaplain or clinical nurse specialist.
- Serious illness can cause family roles to change. Breadwinners may need to become caregivers and caregivers may need to become breadwinners. Young children may become anxious, while teenagers may become angry about the changes caused by the illness.
- Sometimes family members may feel angry that they have to cope with a serious illness in the family. It may help to talk about these feelings with a close friend or counselor.
- Let yourself accept help from friends and family. When people ask what they can do, be ready with ideas. Have a list of tasks that need to be done, so the person can choose how they can help you. This will free you to take care of yourself.
- Families may worry about money problems. There may be resources that can help or offer support. Talk to a social worker to learn about the resources that are available.
- If you are worried about caring for your loved one after their hospital stay, please ask to speak to a social worker. They can give you information on resources such as home health care, hospice or other community programs.
- JamesCare for Life offers a wide range of programs to support patients, families and caregivers. Ask a member of your healthcare team for more information.
- Ask your doctor or nurse if you are worried about your loved one. They can answer your questions and tell you about their care.
- As a caregiver, it is sometimes hard to know how you should care for a person with serious illness. Ask what to expect and how you should help the person.
- If you are concerned that the illness can be spread to others, ask your doctor or nurse for more information.
JamesCare for Life Caregiver Resources
JamesCare for Life recognizes the important role of caregivers by offering resources including support groups, videos and special programming during National Family Caregivers Month in November. Visit JamesCare for Life Caregiver Resources for more information about these programs.