Caring for the Caregiver
Article contributed by Jeri Lensing and Angela Young, American Cancer Society patient navigators
Being a caregiver can mean seeing to the daily needs of a friend or loved one, but also may include taking on additional roles, including managing finances, home maintenance, child care, laundry, grocery shopping and meal preparation. The joy of caregiving can quickly become overwhelming. A caregiver may feel stress or become exhausted, which could also lead to potential health concerns. It is important that caregivers make time for themselves. Here are a few simple suggestions that are easy to implement and can be done on a daily basis.
- Eating schedules can be challenging. When thinking about meals, rather than trying to find time to sit down for “three square meals” a day, it may help to redefine meals. Use energy-boosting snacks such as juice drinks, cheese and crackers, raisins, fruit and vegetables, peanuts or granola bars that are easy to bring with you when schedules are uncertain. If a friend asks what they can do to help, ask for prepared meals to put in the refrigerator or freezer, allowing you to heat them as time allows.
- Exercise can be beneficial even in small doses, and does not require a gym or health club. If possible, consider taking a short brisk walk near the medical facility or in a park nearby while the patient is receiving a treatment or test. Walking a set of stairs can provide a good cardio workout. Seek out information or instruction on appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises that can be done in a small area, while sitting in a chair, or incorporated into daily tasks. As always, remember to consult with your health care team before beginning any strenuous activity.
- Sleep will improve if you maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Try relaxation techniques, listen to your favorite music or visualize your favorite scenery as a way to relax. For some, a fifteen minute nap can be a better refresher than napping for an hour or two.
It is important to remind yourself that you are part of a team in caring for your friend or loved one. It is not just your responsibility. It is acceptable to let other members take the lead and to rely on their help and guidance. And remember that by taking care of yourself you are also taking care of your friend or loved one.
For information relating to caregiving for the caregiver, caregiver support groups, relaxation, nutrition, or exercise classes, please contact your American Cancer Society patient navigator or visit www.cancer.org and click on treatment and support.
Connect with other caregivers online on Mayo Clinic Connect in the Caregivers Group.