Caring for Yourself When You’re a Caregiver

November is National Family Caregiver’s Month, and we want to remind all our caregivers that it’s vitally important for them to maintain their own health this month and throughout the year. Our patient resource page lists many organizations and foundations that may be able to help ease the burden.

A few helpful tips:

Associate yourself with the Family Medical Leave Act and make sure you know your rights. The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition.

Eat well and get exercise. Even just a few minutes of activity a day can do wonders for your mental health. If you’re cooking for a loved one, make enough for yourself. A good diet keeps you strong so you can continue to care for a loved one. Check out these stress-fighting foods.

Accept help from friends and family. When you’re the main caregiver, it can seem like more work to coordinate help from multiple sources, but if you’re willing to use an app or website to create a shared calendar, you’ll find that getting organized is not that hard – and well worth your sanity in the end. Care Calendar, Caregiver’s Touch, and Care Zone are just a few apps you can use to get organized. Not tech savvy? Ask for help from a friend who is good at planning and organizing, and have them create a spreadsheet for managing medications and scheduling meals and visiting hours.

Don’t be afraid to pay for help.  Home taking care of a loved one and feeling strung out? You don’t need to hire a live-in caretaker to make things much easier. Small things that cost very little extra can be a huge help: Have food delivered through Fresh Direct, Amazon Fresh, Pea Pod, or Instacart. Drop off your laundry. Hire a cleaning service. Have a neighbor shovel your driveway or rake leaves. The possibilities are endless and though it may seem silly to get help with the smaller stuff, think about what you could be doing during that time instead?

Find a support group. Caregiving is a job chock full of emotion. Vent with others who will understand. Cancercare.org is a great place to start.

Don’t be afraid to call a friend. After an initial surgery or diagnosis, people are always there to help, but that help can taper off quickly. If you are feeling deserted, don’t be ashamed to call a friend and tell them you are still in the thick of things and need a hand. Chances are they’ll come right over or take a few hours in the coming days to stop by.

Set up appointments with your doctor. Keep track of your health and make sure you are getting all vaccines and taking precautions necessary to keep your loved one safe!

Caring for a spouse or loved one takes a toll physically and emotionally – and caretaker burnout is real. The better you take care of yourself, the better you’ll be able to take care of those around you.

Cooking as a Caregiver

Finding recipes that don’t require a lot of extra assembly and reheating instructions, while being nutritious and comforting can be a challenge. We’ve gathered some of our founder Ann’s favorite recipes to help you out.

Registered Dietitian Approved

There are many misconceptions about nutrition and cancer in widespread media. By using current scientific literature, plus recommendations of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Institute for Cancer Research, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society, our Registered Dietitian, Kate Ueland, MS, RD, and our team of editors work to help our readers discern truth from myth.

The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Always consult your physician or registered dietitian for specific medical advice.


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