Caring For Yourself
When you’re loved one is a mesothelioma patient and you are the caregiver, you may find little time to care for yourself. You’re too busy doing everything else. But experts agree that part of being a caregiver is caring for you. After all, if you get sick, who is going to step in?
It’s no secret that caregiving is tough, exhausting work. Before the illness, you probably just had to care for yourself and your family. Now, you are the main person responsible for so much more. Not only do you have to do the work you did before, but you have to make sure your loved one is well tended to as well.
Asking for Help
One of the main things that many caregivers must do, but find it hard to do, is ask for help. They may feel guilty asking for help, or feel bad for burdening other people. Either way, it’s something that must be done. You simply can’t do everything. Studies show that caregivers who have a strong social support system feel less distress and burden. The American Cancer Society said, “human connections can help you stay strong.”
Where To Turn For Help
Sometimes, it’s not just family and friends who can help. There are many places to turn:
- Start with close family and friends to help. They may not be able to fill-in every day but perhaps just help for a few hours a week.
- Look to church groups and nonprofits for assistance. Some groups offer free respite care for caregivers.
- Turn to paid professionals, like nurses or nursing assistants. While this may be costly, it could pay dividends in helping relieve stress.
Accepting Your Feelings
Often, when caregivers feel stressed they may start having feelings and emotions that may be deemed as embarrassing or wrong. This includes anger, grief, depression and hopelessness. It’s important to realize that these feelings are not wrong and shouldn’t be embarrassing. So many caregivers have these same feelings; allow yourself to experience and accept them. However, many of these feelings could be signs of caregiver burnout, a common condition that happens when caring for the infirmed.
Defined as the emotional and/or physical exhaustion due to long periods of distress, caregiver burnout is a very real condition that effects caregivers who don’t take care of their own needs. Signs that indicate caregiver burnout sometimes are not outwardly obvious:
- Feelings of helplessness, depression and anxiety.
- Decreased work production and changes in daily habits
- Increased use of alcohol and increased fear of death.
- Ongoing fatigue and social withdrawal.
Proper Self Care
If you feel as though you may have caregiver burnout or may be close to having caregiver burnout, now is the time to seek help. There is no shame in seeking help for yourself so you can better help your patient. Proper self-care means that you are not only handling your physical needs but your emotional ones as well:
- Exercise and Eat Right -- Getting an appropriate amount of exercise and a healthy diet is the first step to avoiding exhaustion.
- Find a support group -- Whether it is online or in person, a specialized cancer or mesothelioma support group can help you get through your most difficult days.
- Stay Involved in Past Hobbies -- If you loved knitting before you became a caregiver, make sure you keep up with your hobby. It’s important to keep your interests current to give you something else to occupy your mind.
- Contact a professional -- Licensed family therapist and psychologists can help give you tools to cope with caregiver exhaustion or burnout.
By acknowledging your anxiety and stress, you understand the potential for caregiver burnout. By caring for yourself first, you can do best for others.
- Cancer.org. “Asking for Help.” Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/treatment/caregivers/caregiving/whatyouneedtoknow/what-you-need-to-know-as-a-cancer-caregiver-asking-for-help
- Cancer.gov. “When Someone You Love Is Treated.” Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/when-someone-you-love-is-treated.pdf
- Caring.com. “What Is The Definition Of Caregiver Burnout?” Retrieved from http://www.caring.com/questions/what-is-the-definition-of-caregiver-burnout