Adjusting to Life After Caregiving

September 16, 2013
Download MP3 (3.95 MB/4:19)

In this podcast, we discuss what to expect as your role of caregiver comes to an end.



You’re listening to a podcast from Cancer.Net (Cancer dot net). This cancer information website is produced by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, known as ASCO, the world’s leading professional organization for doctors that care for people with cancer.

Today we’ll discuss what to expect as your role of caregiver comes to an end.

As a caregiver, you’re an important part of the support network for a person with cancer by providing physical, emotional, and practical care. You may find that you become focused on providing this support, especially if the treatment period for your family member or friend lasts for many months. However, as the treatment and disease change, so does you role, and eventually your role as caregiver will end. When the person you care for recovers or completes a planned course of treatment, you may feel that your sense of purpose or self-worth has changed and you might be unsure how to return to life without caregiving.

Here are six suggestions to help you transition out of the caregiving role:

First, resume activities you enjoy. As a caregiver, you may have been too busy or felt it was disrespectful to spend time on your own interests and hobbies. Consider joining or re-joining a club or pursuing a new interest.

Next, re-establish relationships with family members, friends, or co-workers that you may have fallen out of touch with.

Third, take care of your body. Let go of bad habits you may have developed while under the stress of caregiving. Make time for exercise, eating healthy foods, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep. If you can’t make healthy changes on your own, talk with your doctor or a nurse.

Fourth, consider going back to work. Some people leave their job or take time off for caregiving. Going back to work may help you stay busy during this transition.

The fifth suggestion is to continue to help others. Caregiving is challenging, but it can also be rewarding. If you want to continue to help others, consider volunteering for an organization that helps people with cancer or for another cause you care about.

Finally, number six: write in a journal. Writing about the stresses and experiences in your life can help you reflect on your journey, move forward, and clarify new goals.

Transitioning into a future that doesn’t include caregiving is a different experience when someone you care about survives cancer than when someone passes away. Learning that the cancer has been successfully treated is often a great relief. However, you may be worried about a recurrence, meaning that the cancer will come back after treatment. To help manage this concern, learn more about the cancer and find out whether it has a predictable pattern of recurrence. In addition, ask if the person you cared for if he or she would mind keeping you updated on their follow-up care and if you can offer any further support.

And it’s important to remember that, even after making efforts to adjust, you may need further help. This is particularly true if you are feeling symptoms of depression, which includes feelings of prolonged sadness or despair. If you’re having trouble adjusting to life after caregiving, consider visiting a counselor or participating in a support group. A counselor can help you find ways to reduce stress and improve your coping skills, while a support group can give you a safe place to share experiences and learn from other caregivers. Talk with your doctor or a nurse about choosing a counselor or finding a support group that’s right for you.

For more information on caregiving, talk with your doctor or visit Cancer.Net is supported by the Conquer Cancer Foundation, which is working to create a world free from the fear of cancer by funding breakthrough research, sharing knowledge with physicians and patients worldwide, and supporting initiatives to ensure that all people have access to high-quality cancer care. Thank you for listening to this Cancer.Net podcast.