The word “caregiver” says it all — someone who sets his or her personal life aside to “give care” to another.
Although it can be rewarding to aid your loved one back to health, being a caregiver is no easy task and has many ups and downs. Caring for someone with cancer or another serious illness can instill stress or pressure, and you may often forget about your own needs.
The Center for Counseling and Cancer Support at UPMC compiled a list of tips to help caregivers cope with the challenges that come with their job.
1. Take Care of Yourself Physically and Mentally
Being a caregiver can be exhausting for the body and the brain. Between the stress and manual labor sometimes required to take care of a loved one, it’s easy to forget about yourself. Your health is important too, and you can’t help others if you aren’t healthy yourself.
2. Take Breaks Often
Sometimes, you just need a break. And that’s OK.
Allow yourself the rest you need, and take time to do things you enjoy. Wondering when you’re going to have the time to do something like read a book, take a walk, or just relax? Schedule time for yourself. Set aside a certain amount of time each day to do something for you.
3. Ask for and Accept Help from Others
You don’t have to do everything by yourself. If someone offers to help you — either with your loved one, with something around your house, etc. — accept it. If no one offers help, ask for it. As a caregiver, it’s common to act like you can handle everything yourself, but you don’t have to.
4. Connect with Other Caregivers
You are not alone. There are approximately 2.8 million caregivers in the United States. Open up and share your experiences with others. Chances are someone has gone through or is going through something you are dealing with now.
5. Be Honest with Your Loved Ones
The person you are caring for appreciates everything you do, even if they don’t say it often. And he or she cares about your health, too. If it’s getting to be too much to handle, be open and honest. Communication is key in any relationship.
6. Don’t Get Locked into Roles
It’s important for you and your loved one to not always be patient and caregiver. There are other parts of your relationship. Watch a movie together, have dinner, play a game, get creative. Don’t forget who you were to each other before you were patient and caregiver.
The Center for Counseling and Cancer Support at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center offers individual therapy for caregivers and others within the patients’ circles. If you or a loved one is struggling with the challenges that come with being a caregiver, or any other aspect of a cancer diagnosis, call 412-623-5888.