Being a caregiver to a person navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment can often come with a unique set of challenges. Being a caregiver during the novel coronavirus pandemic has taken these challenges to unprecedented levels. Normal daily routines are being met with extra steps and protocols to ensure the safety of patients, frontline workers, caregivers and loved ones. One of the most important but often forgotten tasks for caretakers is checking in with themselves and reaching out when things become overwhelming.
In order to care for others, we must first be able to care for ourselves.
The corona virus pandemic is unchartered territory for everyone. We are putting substantial pressure on ourselves to be socially conscious and sensitive to those who are considered to be of high risk. People with cancer, including patients currently receiving treatment are more vulnerable and may be likely to develop complications if they contract COVID-19. Normal daily activities like filling up your car with gas and going grocery shopping can increase stress when you’re concerned with contracting and spreading the virus. Knowing that there are resources available to you and online support groups where you can interact with people going through the same trials is a great way to avoid feeling isolated during these difficult times.
It is especially important right now for caregivers to consider their own well-being and acknowledge they also need support.
Recognizing and managing the first signs of stress are imperative to a caregiver’s overall health. According to an article published by The American Cancer Society some of these signs may include feeling exhausted, getting sick more than usual, not getting a well nights rest, feeling irritable and withdrawing from people. The American Cancer Society recommends if you aren’t able to get or stay happy, you may benefit from professional help. Reaching out to your health care provider or cancer care team and asking for help should be a priority if you find yourself experiencing stress that’s hard to handle.
Although the restrictions placed on social interactions and spending time with loved ones during the pandemic have been tough for most there are still ways to deal with these stressful situations and maintain a positive sense of well-being.
The American Cancer Society shared a few tips as highlighted by the National Institute of Health’s Emotional Wellness Toolkit
- Communicate with family and friends while safely practicing social-distancing. This can be through texts and phone calls, video chat, sending emails or joining online support groups.
- Keep a good outlook, develop healthy habits, and focus on the positive experiences in your life.
- Go outside when you can, get regular physical activity, and eat a healthy diet.
- Get plenty of sleep. Try out books, websites, apps and videos that can help you relax.
- Find ways that help you laugh like talking with other upbeat people, playing games or watching movies.
- Do things you’ve been wanting to do at home like de-cluttering, trying new recipes or reorganizing.
Checking in daily with those selflessly caring for our loved ones needs to become routine. Reach out and ask how they are feeling and offer your support. For informal caregivers and their families who may need extra support and information during these difficult times, please see the online resources provided below.