Care for the Caregiver

Caring for Yourself

As a caregiver, you may be so focused on the person you are caring for that you forget to take care of yourself. You may stop seeing friends, lose sleep, miss meals and feel guilty about doing anything fun. As daily routines are disrupted, you may start to feel a loss of control over your life. It is important to pay attention to your own health and well-being while you care for the person with advanced cancer. Self-care also benefits those around you. It can bring relief to the person that you are caring for to know that you are also caring for yourself. And if you don't, you may burn out and be too tired to help anyone.

Knowing Your Strengths and Limits

Looking back, caregivers sometime say that they did not do enough or they tried to do too much. They wish they had accepted more help sooner. Only after the experience has ended, do they realize how physically and emotionally difficult it was.

You may be coping with other responsibilities work, children, finances and may put yourself last on the list of things to take care of. Often caregivers hide their difficulties and pretend that they can deal with everything. Not taking care of yourself can have a negative effect on your health sleep problems, depression, anxiety and other physical problems can affect long-term health. Be honest with yourself about what you can do. Think about what is most important, and put aside what is not. 

Tips for Looking After Yourself

  • Look after your health. Make time to eat regular meals, get enough sleep and keep up with your own appointments.
  • Make time just for you. Take breaks by exercising, going for a walk, taking a bath, talking to a friend or doing any of the things that have always given you pleasure.
  • Make time for other family members, especially children. Enjoy time together and keep family routines when possible.
  • Try to live in the moment and take things one day at a time rather than thinking about what lies ahead.
  • Consider respite care when you need a break from caregiving. Respite care means the person you are caring for has a short stay in a hospice, palliative care unit or other facility. You can also arrange for someone to come into the home to give you a break.

Carers Are Not Alone

It is not unusual to feel guilty about having concerns and worries of your own at a time when your partner, friend or relative is having to deal with lymphoma. But there is no reason for you to feel like this. It is also quite common to feel isolated and alone when you are concentrating on caring for someone who is ill, especially if you cannot maintain the social network you had before your partner, friend or relative became ill. Remember, you are not alone. There are a number of sources of support for caregivers. The patient’s healthcare team and even your family doctor will be able to offer advice. There are also many organizations and support groups both locally and nationally that can offer practical and emotional help. You can even share your story, and read those of patients with lymphoma and their caregivers on this Web site.

The Importance of Self-care

Many caregivers spend so much time and effort looking after the needs of the person with lymphoma that they neglect to look after themselves properly. Sometimes, caregivers may also feel guilty about taking time out for themselves, as if they are letting their friend, relative or partner down. It is important to remember that there is no reason for you to feel guilty about looking after your own health. You cannot possibly give the best care to someone else when you are physically exhausted or emotionally drained.

If you are not well, make sure that you see the doctor, even though it may be tempting to treat your own illness as less important. And make sure that you eat well and get plenty of sleep. Also, spend time with people other than the person you are caring for. Take time out each day to have a break, by going shopping, going for a walk, reading a book or keeping up a hobby or class.

Do not feel you should be doing everything for your partner, relative or friend yourself. If you feel you need extra help, then do not be afraid to ask for it. Remember, other friends or family members may be too shy to offer, and are simply waiting for you to ask. Accepting the help of friends or family could be really valuable to you. For example, you should try and arrange for another friend of the patient, or another member of his or her family, to ’stand in’ for you now and again. This will give you some time for yourself, or time to take a well-earned holiday.