Self-Care Tips for Lung Cancer Caregivers
It is easy to get absorbed into your caregiver role and let your needs go unaddressed. Taking care of yourself may seem simple, but when most of your energy is focused on someone else, it is easy to forget simple ways to revive your mind and spirit. Consider these self-care tips:
Tips for Talking about Lung Cancer
- Discuss your role
Your loved one may want to tell people about his or her cancer or may ask you to share that information with others. Make sure you know your loved one's wishes so you can offer support if necessary. Do not share information meant to be kept private.
- Accept different reactions
Some people may have intense emotional reactions to the news and others may not. Each time you tell someone, you might get a different and even unexpected reaction. Share the news at a time and place that is comfortable for you and your loved one. Sometimes family and friends will need time to process the information before they offer support.
Tips for Coping with Your Emotions
- Accept all emotions
It's normal to feel a wide range of emotions. At times you might resent your role or feel frustrated. Though you may feel guilty or selfish for having these feelings, it's important to realize they are normal. Keeping a journal can help you express feelings and work through difficult emotions.
- Stay positive
This is easier said than done but a positive attitude can improve your and your loved one's moods. Stay positive by taking one day at a time, set short-term achievable goals, accept your limitations, share the responsibility and keep your sense of humor by doing activities you enjoy.
- When you have a hard time staying positive, confide in someone you trust
It’s important to identify those in your support system you can be real with, who will be supportive even on your worst days. Depending on your relationship as caregiver, this person may or may not be the patient. Staying positive can often feel like a lot of work to patients and caregivers alike. Having a safe place to express negative emotions and have your fears validated is a key piece to coping with your emotions.
- Consider talking to a healthcare professional
Talking about your feelings with a therapist or social worker may be beneficial. Look for someone who specializes in cancer.
Tips for Staying Healthy
- Get enough sleep
Aim for 8 hours a day
- Eat a balanced diet
Don't skip meals. Accept meals from your support system if you are too tired to cook.
Try to do some form of activity every day. Going on walks is a great way to clear your mind and lower your stress level.
- See your doctor for regular checkups and stay up to date on vaccinations
It is easy to forget about going to the doctor for routine exams and screenings when you are busy taking your loved one to doctors' appointments. Practicing preventive medicine will help you stay well so you can be a better caregiver. Stay up to date on your vaccinations. This all helps protect your loved one from getting sick.
Tips for Making Time for You
Give yourself time to enjoy your life. Here are some suggested ways to take breaks from caregiving and recharge yourself:
- Read a book or watch a movie
- Take a nap or relax in a bath
- Get a massage
- Listen to music
- See friends
- Play cards or games with friends
- Pursue a hobby
- Create a space in your home where you can retreat when needed
Tips to Ease the Burden
- Accept help
Help your support system help you. Make a list of things other people can help with such as running errands, cleaning, giving rides or preparing meals. The Lung Association's Caregiving Community can help you organize your volunteers.
- See family and friends
You might not feel like being social, but the company of family and friends can lift your spirits and help you through the day. You may not be able to see some in person. Keep in touch with phone calls, emails, video chats or letters.
- Join a support group
There are special support groups just for caregivers. Ask your loved one's doctors if they know of any local groups. Also check out the American Lung Association's Better Breathers Clubs with locations around the country and our online forum, Lung Association's Lung Cancer Survivors Community on Inspire.com.
- Connect with religion and faith
Religion and faith-based organizations can be a source of strength and support for some people. Prayer and meditation may help you cope with your emotions during this time. Reach out to a leader in your faith community to discuss your spiritual needs.
Tips for Feeling Prepared
- Knowledge builds confidence
Often people feel like they don't have control when they are dealing with cancer. Learning as much as you can will help you feel more in control of the situation and less stressed. You also will feel more confident when talking to your care team and making treatment decisions.
- Ask questions
Every question you have is worth asking. Sometimes medical providers don't bring up topics because they aren't sure you want to hear about them. Don't wait for the doctor to start all of the conversations. Ask all of your questions and make sure they get answered in a way you understand.
- Call the Lung HelpLine
Call the American Lung Association Lung Cancer HelpLine at 1-844-ALA-LUNG or 1-844-252-5864 to speak to someone directly, or submit a question online. Talking with an expert can ease some of your fears and provide you with the support you need.
Approved by Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed November 19, 2017.