gdc
CaregiversStress Management

6 Dos and Don'ts for Managing Caregiver Stress

Although caregivers’ priorities often shift toward their loved ones’ health, it’s vitally important for them to take care of themselves, physically and mentally.
October 2015 Vol 1 No 5
Rose McKay

Stepping into the role of a caregiver for a loved one with cancer comes with many challenges, including thoughts of uncertainty, moments of losing hope and control, sacrifices of time and resources, and the overwhelming sense that no one understands what you’re going through, according to Sara Goldberger, LCSW-R, Senior Director, Program, Cancer Support Community, New York City.

When a loved one is diagnosed, “You’re walking side by side on their journey, but you’re walking a parallel journey of your own,” Ms. Goldberger said at the SURVIVORville 2015 annual meeting in Nashville, TN. Ms. Goldberger provided practical tips for coping with the stress of being a caregiver.

Although caregivers’ priorities often shift toward their loved ones’ health, it’s vitally important for them to take care of themselves, physically and mentally. However, many caregivers find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep, let alone make time for proper nutrition, exercise, and hobbies.

The 3 Dos

  1. Set Your Boundaries

    Concerned friends and family members are going to reach out, wanting to know the status of your health, but their good intentions can quickly feel like a time-consuming burden when you’re answering every phone call, every text, and every e-mail, especially when you’re relaying the same information over and over again.“

    Setting up a blog is a great place to post updates,” Ms. Goldberger said. “There, you can say things like, ‘we just want peace and quiet right now’ in a nonconfrontational and nondirect way.”

    Another option is starting a telephone tree, and giving each of your friends and family members a list of people to call when there’s news to share.

  2. Ask For Help, But On Your Own Terms

    One of the main reasons that caregivers don’t ask for help is because they feel they are burdening their friends or loved ones, and then putting them in an awkward position if the caregiver declines.

    One solution is to create an online scheduler that you share with all your friends and family, Ms. Goldberger explained. “You can write in that you need a healthy meal for Wednesday night or someone to take you to an appointment, and then people can volunteer and sign up for those tasks,” she said. “It takes the fear out of asking.”

  3. Know Your Rights

    If it is too difficult to balance work and the needs of your loved one, talk to your employer about unpaid leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act permits employees to take unpaid leave for medical reasons.

The 3 Dont's

  1. Don't Isolate Yourself

    Whether it’s an organized support group or your own circle of friends, take the time to connect socially and participate in activities that you enjoy. “Even if it’s the guy next to you who is also taking his wife for chemotherapy, connect with someone who truly knows what you’re going through,” said Ms. Goldberger.

  2. Don't Be Afraid to Say No

    It’s important not to feel obligated to participate in any nonessential social, professional, or personal engagements. It’s okay to turn down invitations that you simply don’t have the time or energy for.

    Likewise, it’s okay to politely decline help when it isn’t needed. “For example, if you have a friend who keeps wanting to bring you and your family pizza for dinner, but you actually enjoy cooking for the family, and that’s therapeutic for you, that’s something you might decline,” she said.

  3. Don't Lose Hope

    As you and your loved one deal with cancer treatment, your expectations of survivorship will likely change throughout the journey. When disease-free survival is no longer likely, hope may take many other forms, such as resolving financial and family legal matters and a pain-free death.“

    Communication with one another and with the healthcare team is key,” Ms. Goldberger said. “Don’t stay in that angry, confused state. Educate yourself, get support, and most important, have hope.”

Recommended For You
CaregiversFamily Members
Patients: Don't Go It Alone
By Morganna Freeman, DO, FACP
Hear why Dr Morganna Freeman stresses the importance of bringing an extra set of ears to appointments.
Brain CancerCaregiversHero of Hope
We're All in This Together
By Jessica Morris
Jessica Morris reflects on the nurses and caregivers who have been with her during her illness. She remarks that patients should have empathy for their caregivers as well, as cancer affects everyone in the patient's community.
CaregiversFamily Members
Wanting to Live in the Before
By Jennifer Brinkley, ESQ.
“I wish we were us again, not this new amalgamation created by his diagnosis,” says Jennifer Brinkley as she discusses her fears about her husband’s terminal cancer diagnosis and the impact on their daily life.
CaregiversClinical Trials
Working Together to Improve Cancer Care: Being My Dad’s Caregiver While “Inside” the Pharmaceutical Industry
By Mark Reisenauer
“I found out that although my professional experience helped, it did not prepare me to be a caregiver,” says Mark Reisanauer, Oncology Business Unit SVP of Astellas Pharma US.
Last modified: April 5, 2018

Subscribe to CONQUER: the patient voice® magazine

Receive timely cancer news & updates, patient stories, and more.

Country