The Admiral and Heroic Act of Caregiving

Caregiving responsibilities will touch almost all of us at some point in our lives. With an aging population and with many caring for ill and disabled children and young adults, an increasing number of people are family caregivers.

Giving care and support during this time can be a challenge. Many caregivers put their own needs and feelings aside to focus on the person with pancreas disease. This can be hard to maintain for a long time, and it’s not good for your health. The stress can have both physical and psychological effects. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others. It’s important for everyone that you give care to you.

You may have been an active part of someone’s life before, but perhaps now that they’re a cancer or pancreatitis patient, the way you support them is different. It may be in a way in which you haven’t had much experience, or in a way that feels more intense than before.  Even though caregiving may feel new to you now, many caregivers say that they learn more as they go through their loved one’s health experience. Common situations are described as:

  • their loved one only feels comfortable with a spouse or partner taking care of them
  • caregivers with children struggle to take care of a parent too
  • parents may have a hard time accepting help from their adult children
  • caregivers find it hard to balance taking care of a loved one with job responsibilities
  • adult children with cancer may not want to rely on their parents for care
  • caregivers may also have health problems, making it physically and emotionally hard to take care of someone else

Whatever your roles are now, it’s very common to feel confused and stressed at this time. If you can, try to share your feelings with others or join a support group. Or you may choose to seek help from a counsellor.

Many caregivers say that looking back, they took too much on themselves. Or they wish they had asked for help from friends or family sooner. Take an honest look at what you can and can’t do. What things do you need or want to do yourself? What tasks can you turn over or share with people? Be willing to let go of things that others can help you do. Some examples may be:

  • helping with chores, such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, or yard work
  • taking care of the kids or picking them up from school or activities
  • driving your loved one to appointments or picking up medicines
  • being the contact person to keep others updated

Be Prepared for Some People Not to Help

When someone has a serious illness such as cancer, friends and family often reach out to help. And sometimes people you don’t know very well also want to give you a hand. But it’s important to realize that there are others who may not be able to help you. You might wonder why someone wouldn’t offer to help you or your family when you’re dealing with so much. Some common reasons are:

  • some people may be coping with their own problems
  • some may not have the time
  • they are afraid of cancer or may have already had a bad experience with cancer. They don’t want to get involved and feel pain all over again
  • some people believe it’s best to keep a distance when people are struggling
  • sometimes people don’t realize how hard things really are for you. Or they don’t understand that you need help unless you ask them for it directly
  • some people feel awkward because they don’t know how to show they care

If someone isn’t giving you the help you need, you may want to talk to them and explain your needs. Or you can just let it go. But if the relationship is important, you may want to tell the person how you feel. This can help prevent resentment or stress from building up. These feelings could hurt your relationship in the long run.

Taking Care of Yourself

All family caregivers need support. But you may feel that your needs aren’t important right now since you’re not the cancer patient. Or that there’s no time left for yourself. You may be so used to taking care of someone else that it’s hard for you to change focus. But caring for your own needs, hopes, and desires can give you the strength you need to carry on.

Ways to take care of yourself

Taking the time to recharge your mind, body, and spirit can help you be a better caregiver. You may want to think about the tips below.

Make time for yourself

Find time to relax. Take at least 15-30 minutes each day to do something for yourself. For example, try to make time for a nap, exercise, yard work, a hobby, watching tv or a movie, or whatever you find relaxing. Do gentle exercises, such as stretching or yoga. Or take deep breaths or just sit still for a minute.

Don’t neglect your personal life. It’s okay to cut back on personal activities, but don’t cut them out entirely. For example, look for easy ways to connect with friends.

Keep up your routine. If you can, try to keep doing some of your regular activities. If you don’t, studies show that it can increase the stress you feel. You may have to do things at a different time of day or for less time than you normally would but try to still do them.

Ask for help. Find larger chunks of time that you can take for yourself by asking for help. Think about things others can do or arrange for you, such as appointments or errands.

Understand your feelings

Giving yourself an outlet for your own thoughts and feelings is important. Think about what would help lift your spirits. Would talking with others help ease your load? Or would you rather have quiet time by yourself? Maybe you need both, depending on what’s going on in your life. It’s helpful for you and others to know what you need.

Join a support group

Support groups can meet in person, by phone, or online. They may help you gain new insights into what is happening, get ideas about how to cope, and help you know that you’re not alone. In a support group, people may talk about their feelings, trade advice, and try to help others who are dealing with the same kinds of issues. Some people like to go and just listen. And others prefer not to join support groups at all. Some people aren’t comfortable with this kind of sharing.

If you can’t find a group in your area, try a support group online. Some caregivers say websites with support groups have helped them a lot.

Learn more about cancer

Sometimes understanding your loved one’s medical situation can make you feel more confident and in control. For example, you may want to know more about his or her type and stage of cancer. It may help you to know what to expect during treatment, such as the tests and procedures that will be done, as well as the side effects that will result.

Talk to others about what you’re going through

Studies show that talking with other people about what you’re dealing with is very important to most caregivers. It’s especially helpful when you feel overwhelmed or want to say things that you can’t say to your loved one with cancer. Talk to someone you can really open up to about your feelings or fears. You’re allowed to feel angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed.

You may want to talk with someone outside your inner circle. Some caregivers find it helpful to talk to a counselor, such as a social worker, psychologist, or leader in their faith or spiritual community. These types of experts may be able to help you talk about things that you don’t feel you can talk about with friends or family. They can also help you find ways to express your feelings and learn ways to cope that you hadn’t thought of before.

Share time with your loved one with cancer

Cancer may bring you and your loved one closer together than ever before. Often people become closer as they face challenges together. If you can, take time to share special moments with one another. Try to gain strength from all you’re going through together, and what you have dealt with so far. This may help you move toward the future with a positive outlook and feelings of hope.