Caring for Yourself as a Caregiver



Cancer is a family affair. Our loved ones go through intense physical and emotional ups and downs throughout the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery phases of cancer. However, cancer caregivers experience a separate set of worries and difficult emotions that are often not addressed or dealt with properly. This section focuses on caregivers’ reactions to the diagnosis of a loved one, providing you with tips on various ways to address the fear of uncertainty. 

Various reactions to a diagnosis of cancer are normal, and are affected by your relationship with your loved one. Whether you are a spouse, child, sibling, relative, or close friend of your loved one, you may experience varying reactions.

Normal caregiver reactions to their loved one's cancer diagnosis include:

  • Denial, shock, anxiety, worry, disbelief, anger
  • Existential questions
  • Practical concerns e.g. finances, family function, disability
  • Dependent on stage of diagnosis - tumour, metastases, prognosis, treatment trajectory

So, as a caregiver, what can you do to cope with feelings of worry or uncertainty about the future? Here are some tips:

  • Be patient

Give yourself time to come to terms with it as a caregiver and take things one step at a time.

  • Acceptance

Recognise and accept that there may be difficult times ahead, however, this does not mean losing hope and letting negative feelings consume you.

  • Review lifestyles and priorities

Be flexible, put non-urgent or unimportant things on hold.

  • Be proactive

Find out about the treatment pathway and options available for your loved one.

  • Remain in the present moment

Practice 'mindfulness' and don't let your mind wander too far into the future too often. Do what you can within your control and try to let go of those things that you cannot control.

  • Attend classes/programmes on caregiving

This will allow you to interact and bond with other caregivers to share and gain insight on each other's caregiving experience. At the NCIS, we currently offer a training programme for caregivers known as Caregivers in Cancer. For more information, click here.

  • Engage support networks

Be it via your family, friends, spiritual/religious support or professional/counselling network and maintain open communication with your loved ones.

  • Lead an active life

Exercise helps to rejuvenate the body and mind and helps you sleep better. It is recommended to aim for at least 2 and a half hours of moderate activity a week. To find out more on how you can keep active, click here.

  • Have a healthy diet

During your caregiving journey, you may be too busy caring for your loved one and neglect your own nutritional needs. Eating right will strengthen your immune system and keep you energised throughout the day. Not sure what meals to prepare? You can save time by preparing the same nutritious meals for yourself and your loved one. To get some cooking inspiration, you can download our dietitian endorsed fuss-free healthy recipes suitable for cancer patients here.

  • Get ample rest

Sleep is an important part of your daily routine not to be neglected. If you are unable to get proper sleep at night, try to take naps during the day. Also, aim to get at least one full night's rest each week.
  • Make time for yourself

While caring for your loved one is important, caring for yourself is equally important. Allocate some time to do activities that you enjoy such as reading, listening to music, watching movies or playing sports. Try not to neglect your own personal life as well and engage in these activities with your friends.
  • Go for regular medical checkups

Sometimes, in the process of caregiving, you may overwork or wear yourself out. To ensure a clean bill of health, don't forget to go for regular health and dental checkups. Also, lookout for signs for anxiety or depression that occur. If you are affected, click here for tips on how to cope with it or alternatively, you can speak to a doctor about your condition.

  • Spirituality

Find meaning in the situation.

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