Whether you are the spouse, partner, mother, daughter, other family member or friend, if you are the primary caregiver of a woman or man going through breast cancer treatment, you need to take good care of yourself while care giving.
The last thing you need, as a caregiver, and the last thing the person with breast cancer needs is for you to get burnout with all the miserable feelings that burnout carries with it. Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it is a necessary and loving thing to do.
Take an inventory of what your caregiver activities entail and what can be shared or taken over by others to lighten your load. Here are some suggestions that may help:
- Ask for and accept help. You can’t be the only caregiver. You just can’t. Ask adult children, other family members, and even friends. Help with meals, kids play dates, chores and shopping will go a long way to lighten your schedule and give you much needed time-outs. Having someone visit the person you are caring for, from time to time, eases your role as companion and gives you the opportunity to get out for “you time.”
- Alert school personnel. If children are a part of your caregiver responsibilities; make school personnel aware of your spouse’s illness so they may be on the lookout for changes in school performance, behavior and moods and provide needed supports.
- Stay in touch with friends and family. Social activities can help you feel connected and may reduce caregiver stress. Your friends and family may also notice caregiver burnout signs that you aren’t aware of.
- Find time to be physically active each week. With your jammed schedule, this may seem impossible, but it’s important. Keep in mind that you don’t need a solid block of time. Doing 10 minutes of physical activity throughout the day can add up and have health benefits.
- Establish a regular routine. Find a system and schedule that works for you and stick to it as often as possible. Make a list if you need to. Knowing that a tidal wave of tasks isn’t going to crash down on you can be a huge relief. It can also give you a better sense of control.
- Join a support group for caregivers. Sometimes you just need to talk to people who can relate to what you are going through. You can share ideas and resources for coping.
- If you can afford to, get help. It doesn’t even have to be a home health aid. Whether it’s a cleaning service, grocery delivery, or someone to walk your dog, it’s one less thing you have to do.
- Take time for you. Make sure you do something for yourself every day. You could take a brief walk or a calming bath. Catch up with a friend over coffee. Take a power nap. Or just some take time to sit, listen to music, read, meditate, or just think. Try to find the time to pursue hobbies you enjoy.
- Try to get enough sleep and rest. Studies have shown that not getting enough sleep increases the level of stress hormones in your body. This can sap your mood, energy, and health. The reality, however, is that many caregivers have problems sleeping due to stress or because they are needed to provide care during the night. Talk to your doctor if sleep problems are keeping you from feeling well-rested.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals that are rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You’ve heard it before, but if you eat better, you really will feel and function better.
- Take one day at a time. Stop asking yourself “what if.” Don’t obsess about all you have on your plate. It doesn’t solve anything and it can be overwhelming.
Watch the caregiver frustration and/or guilt. You are doing your best. The person you are caring for will have bad days when nothing you do seems to help. It isn’t your fault. It’s the disease,the side effects of treatment, the sadness, anger and depression that often accompanies a life-threatening illness.
Source: womens health dot gov