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Caring for Yourself while Caring for a Loved One

Read Time: 2 minutes

Oxygen masks hanging from ceiling of plane

Think about the last time you were on an airplane. What do the flight attendants tell you to do if the oxygen masks drop down from overhead? Put your own mask on first. If you don’t make sure you’re getting oxygen, you won’t be able to help anyone else.

This same rule applies to caregivers. It’s important to take care of your own needs before you "run out of oxygen."

Being a caregiver can be overwhelming, time-consuming, and draining. Studies show that more than 50% of caregivers experience burnout because they neglect themselves while juggling their caregiving responsibilities. Here are some tips and resources that can help you focus some attention on yourself and avoid burning out.

  • Ask for help. Take people up on their offers to help, and be specific. Family members, friends, and neighbors want to help but they may not know how. When someone says, "Let me know what I can do," give him or her a task like bringing dinner, taking your kids to school, or mowing the lawn.
  • Talk it out. Consider meeting with a social worker or a support group. The Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) Patient & Family Support social workers are here for caregivers as well as patients. HCI social workers also run a weekly support group specifically for caregivers.
  • Let yourself grieve. Give yourself permission to cry, be angry, or feel whatever you are feeling.
  • Pay attention to your physical and mental health. Eat well, get physical activity, and rest. Take time to visit with your doctor during your yearly visit or whenever needed.
  • Take things one day at a time. Understand you will have good days and bad days.
  • Educate yourself. Knowing all you can about your loved one’s cancer may help you feel more in control and help you set realistic expectations. HCI’s Cancer Learning Center has materials and health educators to assist you.
  • Take care of your spiritual needs. Spirituality can be a source of strength and support for caregivers. Reach out to your religious leaders. HCI’s chaplains and spiritual care volunteers help both patients and caregivers.
  • Make time for yourself. Even five minutes each day of deep breathing can help. Or take advantage of the HCI Wellness and Integrative Health Center’s classes and services available to caregivers as well as patients. Offerings include art therapy, exercise classes, creative writing, meditation, acupuncture, and massage therapy.

Find more resources for caregivers and family.

Cancer touches all of us.