Ways to Care for A Child with Cancer

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Connect With Other Caregivers: Your family and friends can support you, but they probably won’t know exactly what you go through when your child has cancer. Talking to other parents who are in the same caregiving role reminds you that you’re not alone. 

Sometimes, just hearing someone say, “Me, too!” can help you carry on when things get hard. Ask your child’s cancer care team where you can find local or online caregiver support networks.

Say Yes to Help

It can be hard to ask for and accept offers of help but trying to do everything yourself can burn you out in a hurry. Make a list of the things you need to be done in a week — walking the dog, picking up groceries, mowing the grass — and figure out which ones you’d feel most comfortable handing over to others. Then when someone asks, “What can I do?” you’ll have an answer ready.

Get Organized

The appointments, forms, and medications that come with your child’s cancer diagnosis can get overwhelming. Keep all her care info in one place. Set reminders for meds on your smartphone. Keep a notepad with you to write down questions for the doctor. A financial advisor can help you make a plan for your medical bills. Have a detail-oriented friend or family member? Let them do some of the planning and other mental work.

Take a Break

It’s not selfish. It’s healthy to step away from your caregiving duties from time to time. Carve out a few hours in the week that are just for you. Spend those breaks doing things you want to do, with no guilt. It’s likely that both you and your child will benefit from your outings. You’ll be refreshed, and your child will get to spend time with other caring adults.

Prioritize Exercise

Just 20 minutes of exercise can energize you, help boost your mood, and even improve your sleep. Take a brisk walk, ride your bike, work in the garden — find a way to move your body every day so you’re in good shape to take care of your child.

Don’t Skimp on Sleep

Exhaustion makes stress worse. Good sleep is key for your health and the energy you need to care for your child. Your goal should be 8 hours a night. Prep yourself for good shut-eye by cutting off caffeine early in the day, turning off screens an hour before bed, and sticking to a bedtime schedule as best you can. If worries about your child are keeping you up at night, talk to your doctor about how to get the rest you need.

Eat Well

It’s easy to pick up bad eating habits when you’re so focused on your child. But without the right nutrition, you’ll end up feeling run down. Start with simple changes. Instead of raiding the hospital’s vending machine, carry healthy snacks with you, like baby carrots, trail mix, or granola bars. To avoid eating out, say yes when friends or neighbors offer to cook meals for you. If you need help rethinking your diet, talk to your doctor or a dietitian.

Be Smart About Stress

When mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion build-up without relief, it can lead to what’s called “caregiver burnout.” Watch for the signs: trouble with your sleep or appetite, feeling very anxious or irritable, or a “checked out,” empty feeling. It may be hard to notice these changes in yourself, so ask family or friends to let you know if they think you’re getting burned out. Take them seriously if they bring it up.

Find Your Calm

Relaxation techniques send a powerful message to a stressed body and mind. Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing are all good ways to feel calm. Keep a journal, even if it’s just to write down the things you’re thankful for each day. If spirituality is part of your life, praying or talking to a spiritual leader can help center your thoughts and handle stress.

Look for Laughs: When it comes to stress, laughter really can be some of the best medicine. A good laugh can help with blood flow, relax your muscles, and flood your body with chemicals that make you feel good. Cracking up with your child is even better — you’ll both benefit from the release of a good giggle 🙂 🙂

Sharing for a healthy society.

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