Caring for the Caregiver



When a loved one has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition, such as cancer, most often it is a family member, spouse or close friend who becomes the primary caregiver and assists in the care of the patient.  This is a big responsibility and can be overwhelming.  It is important for the caregiver to also take care of themselves throughout this challenging time.  Here are some tips for caring for the caregiver:

  • Reach out to other friends and family members for assistance.  Make a list of duties that need to be completed in order to care for the patient and request others to help complete those tasks.  This can help alleviate some stress for the caregiver.
  • Have time for yourself.  It is important that the caregiver do things that they enjoy doing, such as spending time with friends, participating in a hobby, etc.  This can help decrease the chance of burnout. 
  • Consider reaching out to a caregiver support group.  This can help you identify with other caregivers who are in a very similar situation.  It is also a great way to share ideas and tips.  The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University has a Caregiver Support Group that meets on the 3rd Wednesday of each month for caregivers of cancer patients.  Caregivers may also be interested in reaching out to another caregiver one on one for additional support.
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep and rest.  Sleep is such an important aspect of taking care of yourself.
  • Consider relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga.  Journaling is another great way to help process your feelings.  This can be helpful in coping with some of the stress related to caregiving.
  • Schedule and keep your own doctor’s appointments.  Make sure you are taking care of yourself and not neglecting your own health.  It is common for caregivers to put all of their focus on the patient they are caring for; however, this can cause caregivers to neglect their own health. A caregiver must remember to take care of themselves because otherwise they may not be able to continue taking care of the patient due to their own health concerns. 
Caring for a loved one is such an important role. It is important to remember that caregivers need to be taken care of too!

Located at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Joy McCall, MSW works with the Bone Marrow Transplant Center, hematology and gynecologic cancer teams and their patients.

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