Caregiving 101: A Crash Course in Caregiving

8 tips to help you help your loved one as they begin a journey with cancer

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By definition a caregiver is anyone helping a loved one navigate a significant illness, such as cancer—but the term doesn’t even come close to describing the endless list of roles associated with caregiving. Caregivers are charged with a multitude of tasks and responsibilities. If you’re stepping into the role of caregiver for the first time, you may feel overwhelmed by juggling all your new responsibilities.

Here are eight tips that may help you adjust to your new role:

  1. Follow the patient’s lead. Take your cues from the patient about how much or how little you can be doing to help.
  2. Allow the patient to do as much as possible. Don’t hover. Allow the patient to maintain as much independence as he or she is able.
  3. Ask for—and accept—help. You cannot do it all. Maintain a list of names and numbers of people who can help, including the tasks they can perform.
  4. Communicate. Be authentic. Maintain two-way communication with the patient, even if it means sharing tears and fears.
  5. Find humor. Laughter soothes the soul and acts as a release valve for stress.
  6. Practice self-care. Taking care of yourself enables you to stay healthy and better care for the patient.
  7. Get emotional support. A counselor or friend can provide an invaluable emotional outlet during this stressful time.
  8. Breathe. A few deep breaths can have an instant calming effect. Make it a priority to pause and breathe on a regular basis.