What Every Caregiver Should Know
Caregivers may be partners, spouses, friends and family.
Being a supportive partner or caregiver is not easy. Often, it is not possible for one person to manage all of a patient's needs. As a partner or caregiver, you may need the help of others. Don't be afraid to ask for help and don't hesitate in accepting the help of others.
Acknowledge your own feelings.
Having someone you know face cancer is very emotional for them as well as for you. You may have many emotions that include feeling frightened, anxious, sad, lonely, helpless, uncertain and even angry. It is important to deal with your own feelings first so that you can offer the patient the best possible support. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can't. Caregivers may feel guilty or selfish about taking time for themselves, but understand that you may need this time. Some caregivers find it helpful to keep a journal where they can freely express their feelings.
Take good care of yourself.
Eat healthfully and try to get enough sleep and maintain a balance in your own life. Exercise. Keep up with your own medical needs including taking your own medications. Make time to relax. Whether it's exercising, reading, watching TV or even talking on the phone, do whatever helps you to reduce the stress. Recognize signs of caregiver 'burnout' including insomnia and exhaustion. There are many ways of coping. Do not worry about what other people think you should or shouldn't be doing.
Keep friends and family updated. If this is too difficult, select a 'point person' to help you. If you are offered help that you don't need or want, decline and thank them for their concern.
Caregivers and partners need support too.
No one is perfect, so try not to expect too much of yourself. Even the best caregivers cannot do it all. Reach out to those who can 'support the supporters.' Attend a support group specifically for partners and caregivers. SHARE offers specialized telephone and group support.
Lean on people who are willing to help and allow them to help. Giving some specific tasks to others lets you focus on those tasks that you feel you must personally take on. Remember, there isn't one way that works best. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to care for others. Continue to do what gives you support, comfort and even joy. When you feel overwhelmed, talk with someone you trust, such as a friend, doctor, member of your faith community or a counselor. You can also call SHARE's telephone support lines @ 866-891-2392.
The role of caregiver can be challenging and demanding, but it can also be a fulfilling and satisfying role. Please remember that you are a special and extraordinary person to be a caregiver and that it is very much appreciated!