Now What? 10 Ways to Adjust to Life After Caregiving

June 27, 2017
Sonja Hibbs

As a caregiver, you devoted an enormous amount of help and support to a family member or friend with cancer. This important role was your focus for many months, or even years. But the need for caregiving is over. The person you cared for finished treatment or is in remission, meaning the signs and symptoms of cancer decreased or disappeared. Now you may be struggling to find a new sense of purpose and engage in new routines.share on twitter It takes time to adjust to “normal life” after caregiving ends, but these 10 tips can ease the transition:

  1. Resume your hobbies. You may have been too busy providing support to do activities you enjoy. Now that you have some free time, join or rejoin an activity club or try out a new hobby.

  2. Re-establish positive relationships. It’s easy to fall out of touch with others who were not involved in your loved one’s care. Reach out to family members, friends, or coworkers whose company you enjoy.

  3. Take care of your body. The stress of caregiving can sometimes lead to unhealthy habits, such as smoking, not eating well, or drinking too much alcohol. Let go of bad habits and make time to exercise, eat healthy foods, and get enough sleep. Need help making healthy changes? Just ask your doctor.

  4. Go back to work. If you took a leave of absence or left your job, think about returning to the workforce. This may make it easier for you during this adjustment period.

  5. Support a cause or help others. Although caregiving is challengingyou may have found that providing support was rewarding. Consider offering your time to an organization that helps people with cancer. Or, get involved with cancer advocacy or another cause or charity that you feel strongly about—it can feel good to make a difference.

  6. Write in a journal. Writing about the stresses and events in your life provides a private way to express your feelings. It can also allow you to look back at your caregiving journey and set new goals.

  7. Learn to cope with the fear that the cancer may come back. The likelihood of a cancer recurrence depends on several different factors. The survivor’s doctor can provide information about the chance of a recurrence and provide tips on coping with the fear of recurrence. Ask your loved one about their follow-up care plan, which often includes doctor’s visits and test schedules. Ask how you can help them follow the plan; offering support and seeing your loved one follow their plan may help you feel less anxious about a recurrence.

  8. Recognize depression. Several studies show that caregivers are at an increased risk for depression. Depression includes ongoing feelings of sadness and despair that interfere with daily activities. If you have these feelings or have other signs of depression, ask your doctor for help.

  9. Consider counseling. Getting guidance from a trained mental health professional can help reduce stress, expand coping and decision-making skills, and improve overall quality of life. Ask your doctor what type of counseling might be best for you. Then make sure that your potential counselor or therapist has experience working with cancer caregivers.

  10. Join a support group. A support group is a safe place for you to share experiences and learn from others who have experienced the unique challenges of caregiving. Ask your doctor, the hospital discharge unit, or a social worker to help you find one. Or, explore online resources for caregivers on Cancer.Net.

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