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Caregiver Corner: Stage III Lung Cancer and Caregiver Burnout

Follow these tips for overcoming the stress that comes with caring for a loved one diagnosed with stage III lung cancer.

Caregiver Corner: Stage III Lung Cancer and Caregiver Burnout

Being a caregiver for a friend, family member or loved one who has been diagnosed with stage III lung cancer can be rewarding. It can also be confusing and stressful. For many, caregiving means adding many additional responsibilities onto already busy schedules. Most people who find themselves in the role of a caregiver have a close relationship with the person who needs care, and it is common for the experience to be profoundly emotional.

These factors leave many caregivers feeling exhausted both physically and mentally. If you are a caretaker, it's equally important to care for yourself. Here are a few strategies to keep in mind.

Be realistic
Know your strengths and limits, and focus on those things you can control. Let go of mistakes and put your energy into the things that matter. If you are caring for someone with cancer, recognize that this disease rarely follows a predictable progression and, as best as you can, be prepared for the unexpected.

Have a plan to avoid burnout
The state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion that caregivers can find themselves in is so common that it has been coined “caregiver burnout.” While it’s likely impossible to avoid the stress and turbulent emotions of caregiving altogether, it is possible to have a plan in place to manage these emotions.

  • Work out. Regular exercise has a ton of benefits, including relieving stress and improving sleep. If you don’t have time for the gym or a sport, put aside time to take a walk on most days, or find an activity or workout that can be accomplished in fifteen minutes.
  • Eat well. Finding time to prepare meals might seem impossible, and even making time to eat can be difficult on some days. Stock up on healthy snacks that help you hit your daily intake of vegetables, fiber, protein and other nutrients. Having a plan can help you avoid relying on sugary drinks, salty snacks and fast food.
  • Make time for you. This could be something as simple as taking ten minutes to read a book, go for a walk, call a friend or play with your pet. Knowing that this break is in the near future can make it easier to cope with the stressful points in the day.
  • Stay in touch. Many caregivers fall into a kind of tunnel vision; days and weeks seem to disappear as you move from one task to the next, balancing caregiving with everything else that life demands. Set reminders to keep in touch with friends and family, even if it just means sending a quick message.

Take advantage of help
You don’t have to do everything on your own. Saying yes to offers of help will benefit both you and the person you are caring for. It can help you stay healthier and help the person you are caring for feel less guilty about the strain of caregiving. According to cancercompass.com, a cancer care website, many former caregivers say they wish they had not done so much themselves. You may even find others can offer time and skills you don't have.

If you don't have friends or family who can help, respite care services can provide helpers who will spend time with the person you care for, freeing you to rest, see friends, run errands or otherwise enjoy a brief break.

There are also support groups for caregivers, which offer an opportunity to connect with other caregivers, ask for advice, find sympathetic listeners, share experiences and build social connections. You can find support groups through local hospitals, in Facebook groups and through websites such as caregiver.org and cancercare.org.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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