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Self-Care for Caregivers

Lauren DeWitt, LCSW, OSW-C

October 13, 2020

Caregivers are an essential and valuable part of the Care Team at Ackerman Cancer Center. We recognize the importance of involving caregivers at every step to ensure you have the knowledge and support you need. 

Caregivers take on many new roles. Caregivers may act as a nursing assistant, counselor, homemaker, and advocate. You may feel overwhelmed and unsure when taking on these responsibilities. There can be a strain on both the caregiver and loved one when there is a change in relationship roles, whether it be spouses, parent/child, or friend/patient. Remember, it takes time and communication to adjust to these new roles and set new expectations for each other. 

While caregiving can be a rewarding experience, it can also make you feel drained, physically and emotionally. It is important to look after yourself when acting as a caregiver. Make sure to acknowledge your own health, stressors in your life, and emotional needs. Helping yourself is an essential part of being an effective caregiver. Self-care is a great way to help you stay strong and resilient. Here are some suggestions on how you can participate in self-care:

  • Take a break and do something to distract yourself. Reading, taking walks, creating artwork, and meditating are great ways to do this. 
  • Take care of your own health by seeing your physicians and acting on physical needs you may have. Eat healthy food and get rest.
  • Start a journal. Journaling provides an outlet to express your thoughts and feelings. It can also help you reflect on your caregiving experience.
  • Keep in touch with friends and family! Go to lunch with a friend or have a family member come over for coffee. Remember, you need a support system as well.
  • Start an exercise routine. Endorphins!
  • Join a support group. Talking to other caregivers who are going through similar experiences can help you process your feelings and remind you that you are not alone. 
  • Speak to a therapist. If support groups are not your thing, seeing someone one-on-one can help you manage your thoughts and assist you when you feel overwhelmed. There are now options for in-person and virtual therapy, so you can find a fit that works for your schedule. 
  • Stay organized. Keeping notes and copies of your loved one’s medical records can help you feel more knowledgeable. You can turn back to them when you can’t remember what their physician said about a specific side effect or want clarification on something.  
  •  Learn about resources. There are many programs and organizations that can provide assistance, such as home healthcare groups, your local Eldercare chapter, the Family Caregiver Alliance, and financial resources. Speak to your oncology social worker to learn more. 
  • Ask for and accept help. Asking for help can be very difficult for many caregivers, but don’t feel that you have to do this alone. Try thinking of how you would assist a friend going through a similar situation and make a list of things that would be helpful. Be specific about what help you need, such as grocery shopping, cleaning, or staying with your loved one so you can take a break. 
  • Go easy on yourself. You may want to blame yourself if you can’t do something, but it is important to let go of any guilt and instead think of ways to do it differently next time. Remember, we all have limitations, and acknowledging them can help you grow as a caregiver.
  • Spend time with your loved one where cancer is not the focus. Cancer and caregiving can create a strain in your relationship. It is essential to do things you enjoy together. Go to a movie or go on a date to your favorite restaurant. Focus on closeness with your loved one. Spend time laughing and enjoying each other’s company. 

Ackerman Cancer Center’s team of oncology social workers are available to assist all patients and their caregivers. If you have any questions or would like help connecting to resources, please give us a call at 904-880-5522.

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