Self-Care for Caregivers

CURE, Winter Supplement 2012, Volume 11, Issue 0

Overwhelmed by the job, caregivers often let their own health deteriorate, which can have an adverse effect on their caregiving abilities.

Stress is an inherent part of caregiving, and it can be more stressful when the patient receives a diagnosis of metastatic disease. Overwhelmed by the job, caregivers often let their own health deteriorate, which can have an adverse effect on their caregiving abilities.

Caregiving advocates offer simple solutions: Eat well, stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly and don’t hesitate to enlist the help of friends and family so you can take a break when necessary. But there are additional steps caregivers can take to maintain their physical and mental well-being.

“Try to incorporate activities that give you pleasure, even when you don’t feel like it,” advises Hoda Badr, PhD, a psycho-oncology researcher. “Listen to music, work in the garden or engage in a hobby. These things help maintain a degree of normalcy in your everyday life.”

When she starts to feel down, caregiver Debbie Daugherty enjoys a bicycle ride. She also plays the piano—with her dog. “He loves it,” she says. “He sits beside me, and it’s something we do together.”

Badr also encourages caregivers to keep a journal, especially if they find themselves in a stressful situation that can’t be discussed with their ailing loved one. “If you don’t feel comfortable burdening the patient with your thoughts and feelings,” Badr observes, “writing them down may help provide perspective on your situation or an outlet for your fears and concerns.”

And don’t hesitate to seek solace and support from friends, clergy or a professional counselor, she says. “They can be beneficial at any point during the trajectory of the disease,” Badr adds. “However, making that connection early is always better, so those people will be there for you in times of need.”