15 Ways to Be a Great Caregiver

by Brittany McNabb

Reach Out To Friends For Help

Being a caregiver is an admirable labor of love but can be physically and emotionally tiring. Many WhatNexters talk about the importance of "caring for the caregiver" and ways to be the best caregiver to their loved one with cancer. In order for the patient and caregiver to have a successful relationship, the caregiver must take care of themselves as well. Here are some real suggestions from real WhatNext caregivers on what they have done to take care of themselves and what they have done to be a great caregiver.

1. Take It One Step at a Time

With attending doctor visits, taking your patient to and from cancer treatment, bills, looking out for their needs, and taking care of yourself, some WhatNexters feel like they can get overwhelmed at the start of everyday. Many say that a good way to combat this is to take it one step at a time. If you are taking your patient to the doctor that day, focus on being present and getting answers to all your questions. If you are dealing with insurance companies, focus at the problem at hand. Although it is good to plan ahead, if you take it one step at a time you are less likely to get overwhelmed by the big picture.

Continue Their Inspiration

via relayforlife.org

"Take a deep breath, then take baby steps. Don't think about the entire overwhelming picture. Pick one thing at a time and help her [mother with cancer] through. A meal? Shop for her? Wash her hair? Read to her? Watch a movie together? We can handle it if we take it one thing at a time." - KLC

2. Accept Help From Others

Many WhatNexters go into superhero mode and want to take on everything all at once in an effort to be the best caregiver they can be. Some WhatNexters say that this is setting yourself up for failure because eventually you will not be able to handle it all on your own. They say the best thing to do is accept the help that is offered to you from others whether it is a meal, letting them go to the store for you, letting them give you the night off, etc. People that are willing to help the patient will also be willing to help the caregiver if you vocalize your personal needs.

Accepting Help From Others

via nydailynews.com

"My advice to caregivers is to please accept help from others. When my late husband was fighting his battle I had all the stress in the world on me as the sole caregiver. Now as caregiver for my son who just started his cancer journey, I gladly accept help. I literally lost myself trying to work and take care of my late husband and learned by lesson the hard way." - Secondround

3. Do Small Things for Yourself 

Often caregivers can ignore their own needs because their number one priority is their patient. However, self-care is important and by doing small things for yourself, they will add up to make you feel better as a whole. You can take care of yourself on the cheap by doing simple things like WhatNexter Upnorth mentions below.

Gardening

via allnaturalhealth.us

"I have learned to do small things for myself often. Paint my nails, exercise to burn off steam , take a hot bath, bird watching, laugh with a friend, write a note to someone I care about, organize something, walk outdoors, watch my favorite funny movies, and I plant a vegetable garden. I love growing my own flowers and veggies. These small things are what keep me together." - Upnorth

4. Don't Bottle Up Your Feelings

Some caregivers feel it is best to hide their feelings and frustrations from their loved one with cancer as to not overwhelm their patient more or make them feel guilty. This can be very thoughtful to your patient but it is still important to get your feelings out to someone, somehow. Some WhatNexters cry in private, vent to a friend, join a support group, or see a counselor.

Good Picture Of Woman

via google.com 

"I tell caregivers, please do not be so hard on yourself. You will have ups and downs on this journey. I say, cry when you need to cry, yell when you need to yell. Do not hold it in. Feeling like you are on an emotional roller coaster too is normal when you are a caregiver." - HOBO

5. Take Time to Do Things You Love

Along the lines of a self-care routine, some WhatNexters say it is helpful to their sanity if they do not let their entire life become cancer. It will help your loved one to see that you are still enjoying life and it may even help them enjoy life too. You can take a day (or just a few hours) to do an old hobby for yourself and come back to your patient feeling recharged. Or, if there are things you love doing together, make time for those things to get a respite from everything focused on cancer.

Fishing

via sayner-starlake.org

"My suggestion to caregivers is to sit down for a minute and remember what you used to do before all this happened, hobbies you did on your spare time, etc. Do one of them and tell your loved one with cancer about it and how much you enjoyed it. They don't want to see you suffer. They need you to be their light, their rock. Bringing positivity into your life ultimately shines onto them." - candy

6. Ask Someone for the Day/Night Off

Accepting help from others means loosening the reigns for a few hours, a day, or a night off. After the time off you may feel stronger to face the problems that still lie ahead for your patient and inevitably be a stronger caregiver and advocate.

Friends Having Celebratory Dinner

via google.com

"I think caregivers do need breaks from their "job." I would check to see if anyone could help me take the day or night off. If you or your loved one are affiliated with a church, they may be able to help out." - cam32505

7. See a Therapist 

You can find counseling by contacting the social worker at your hospital or treatment center, looking at local churches in your area, or searching online for therapists that specialize in counseling for caregivers.

Grief Counseling

via google.com

"I (caregiver) am very gentle with my husband and don't lose patience with him at all, but it is the minor things like the car getting stuck in the snow or someone saying something that is so trivial that makes me feel like sitting on the ground and crying. I have gotten to the point where I do think a support group or a therapist would be helpful. I try very hard to be positive with my husband and plan the immediate future and longer, but sometimes I just feel overwhelmed seeing my guy get beat down by the treatments on a day to day basis." - whitebirch

8. Don't Think About It for a Day 

Some WhatNexters say that they plan a day with their loved one where they don't think of any of the stresses of cancer. They say that it will be there when they come back and taking a day off when you can won't matter in the long run. 

Take A Day Off With Your Caregiver

via whatnext.com/pinboard

"Sometimes we can just forget about these problems for one day or two, do something that usually cheer us up. It helps both of us really. So, for both the caregiver and the patient, you probably need to remind each other of what you enjoy and then either do it together or independently to recharge and relax." - lavieestbelle

9. Join a Support Group

Cancer Support Group

via cancersupportcommunity.org

"I think patients and caregivers alike should join a support group. There are a few different ones but most have support groups for patients and caregivers as well. I am a patient now but have been a caregiver in the past and it is equally as hard!" - lilymadeline

"Caregivers can contact the American Cancer Society for referrals to local programs in your area. Also, a social worker at the hospital may have more referrals for you." - cam32505

10. Don't Beat Yourself Up or Make Yourself Feel Guilty 

I Am Having Mood Swings

via theguardian.com

"One caregiver to another: Please don't beat yourself up over this. You have to do what you have to do. Your husband is an adult and must take responsibility for his actions, it's his choice if he doesn't. It has no reflection on you. You are not letting him down. I think you are an angel for being there for your husband during his illness AND taking care of people who are disabled and elderly. That takes a special kind of person right there. God bless you. Please don't forget to take care of yourself. You can't take care of anyone if you don't take care of yourself." - JeanB

11. When All Else Fails, Remember Quality Time

WhatNexter HOBO explains that caregivers can get so caught up with stress and advocating for their patient that they can forget to spend quality time with their loved one. When all else fails, remembering to spend meaningful time together where you're not talking about bills or tests or results can be very valuable for both the patient and caregiver.

Marycam Advanced Cancer

via whatnext.com/pinboard

"I am grateful for each moment we had together. It was a gift. Relax. Enjoy this time with your loved one. Reminisce. You won't be sorry. You cannot control any of this. Just go with it. I am now sick and wish I had someone to sit with me. I don't want or need much. Just the presence of loving family. Spend time watching movies, reading, etc. Just be. Truly, you can do this. Quit worrying and just be." - HOBO

12. Do What You Can and Know It is Perfect Enough

Cancer Cannot Lessen Friendships

via whatnext.com

"The hardest thing for me in being a caregiver was in allowing myself to feel all that comes with the job of tending those so important to me. Some days I was resentful of his needs, his cancer, my situation. Then would come the guilt. When I stopped punishing myself and accepted this as normal, it got a little easier. My husband's job was to take care of himself, to keep strong and keep fighting. My job was everything else. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Do what you can do and realize that all you can do is perfect enough. Take what help is offered, it doesn't mean you failed as a caregiver, it just gives you a break. Sometimes having someone get your groceries gives you the chance to relax in a long hot shower and sometimes that is respite enough." - kashubian

13. Break Down in Private 

I Need To Cry

via lyrics.com

"I used to keep a straight face in front of my parents when I was caring for them, staying strong and never cracking. But at times I would go outside and cry like a baby, yell, get mad, get it out of my system then come back inside. I thought that I needed to stay strong and not act like I was worried or scared, because both of them were both of those things. I didn't want to make it worse. Both my mom and dad died from two different types of cancer within 10 months of each other, we took care of them at home with the help of hospice." - GregP_WN

14. Accept What You Cannot Change

Many caregivers only want to take the illness away from their loved one with cancer so they try to realize that they cannot change the fact that their loved one is sick and they try to find acceptance by realizing the things they cannot control.

Serenity Prayer

via meetville.com

"Trying to live in the moment helps me as a caregiver. If we are watching some amusing program on TV or if I am having a nice warm bath - whatever - I try to just think that right NOW, at this very moment, things are okay. But in the end it is a battle to try and keep spirits up. Some of my friends are great and understand - others are completely insensitive and make me feel worse when I see them so I do find I am choosing who to spend time with carefully. I try to accept that I cannot take this away from my husband, I cannot cure him, no matter how much I wish I could. I have to accept this. I found I was so desperate to try and make him not suffer, to take it away from him that I was getting very stressed. I try to live the serenity prayer about accepting what I cannot change." - Joyex

15. Visit Caregiver Websites

I Need To Keep In Touch With Others With Cancer

via tumblr.com

Robcares.com - "Caring for caregivers." This website is a resource for caregivers by a caregiver himself; this website provides resources and insights to new caregivers, experienced caregivers, family and friends, and healthcare professionals. 

Cancercare.com - This is a website that offers help and resources for counseling, support groups, education workshops, and financial assistance. 

Thecaregiverspace.org - The Caregiver Space is an online community of caregivers that understands. They help caregivers manage and cope with the consequences of ongoing caregiving.

American Cancer Society Caregiver Page - This guide for caregivers gives information on what it is like to be a caregiver, coping as a caregiver, talking to your loved one with cancer, and online resources. 

Links to Questions by Caregivers on WhatNext:

http://www.whatnext.com/questions/taking-care-of-the-caregiver

http://www.whatnext.com/questions/so-much-stress

http://www.whatnext.com/questions/resources-for-caregivers

http://www.whatnext.com/questions/sad-worn-out-exhausted-caregiver-needs-advice

http://www.whatnext.com/questions/caregiver--1

http://www.whatnext.com/questions/how-do-i-handle-being-my-mothers-caregiver-i-need-to-stay-strong

http://www.whatnext.com/questions/as-a-caregiver-how-do-you-handle-your-own-down-times-depression

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