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Tips for Caregivers

You care for their needs.

We’ll do everything we can to help you with yours.

At OhioHealth, we consider the caregiver as part of the cancer patient's team, knowing you are the main support for your loved one.

We understand the caregiver is the person on our patient's team who connects with the doctors, the treatment appointments, the medications and more.

We know the caregiver spends the most time with the cancer patient and so recognizes the changes and needs in the patient more than anyone else, providing critical information about the patient's well-being.

We understand you're the one on the front line of care 24 x 7 and sometimes you, too, need support -- because caregiving is a responsibility that never lets up.

Our Cancer Care Patient Navigators are not only a support for our cancer patients, but also for you. They are here to help with any questions or needs you may have, even if it’s simply someone to talk to who understands what you’re going through.

We invite you to browse the tabbed information below for helpful information and insight. We met with caregivers and listened to their experiences caring for a loved one with cancer -- these are the tips they shared with us.

Your loved one was just told “It’s cancer.” 

The moment someone learns they have cancer can be devastating. Nothing can adequately prepare a loved one for such news. Everything changes. And as their caregiver, your relationship must change from that of friend or partner, sibling or spouse, to that of attendant.

Your role as caregiver can be gratifying, heartwarming, and filled with moments you will treasure forever. But it can also be exhausting, confusing and disheartening and -- in this beginning phase of diagnosis -- frightening. What are you suppose to do? How will you manage caregiving with an already full life?

A million questions rush in, and you may feel lost under the crush of them.

Tips from Caregivers for Caregivers 

Meet with your patient navigator as soon as possible.
Your OhioHealth Patient Navigator will help you and your loved one sort through the overwhelming confusion about what to do next. She can help you see clearly what lies ahead, so you can feel a sense of definition, control and peace ‒ so you don’t have to guess about what comes next.

Assess how much personal time caregiving is going to take. 
Will it be a small amount of time each week, occasionally driving a loved one to appointments, or a great deal of time, caretaking on a daily basis?

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is assess, as best you can, the degree of difficulty for the caregiving that will be required of you. With this understanding, you then can begin to shift roles and responsibilities in the household, make lists of what needs to be taken care of and share the lists with friends and family to ask for their help.

Learn how to accept the help of others. 
When someone asks, “Can I help?” learn to say “yes” and be ready with tasks you can offer. Have at hand a list from which you immediately can give suggestions, from running errands to cooking meals to help with the kids. With your list ready, that “yes” becomes easier.

Make routine household plans to simplify one part of your life.
You may already be doing this but, if not, it’s a good idea to put your household on a schedule for routine needs ‒ creating weekly meal plans ahead of time and having set, assigned days for cleaning and laundry. Because caregiving can take up so much time, it’s important to have areas in your life that happen without having to think about them.

Don’t be concerned if your friends disappear. It happens.
During the newly diagnosed phase, friends will become actively present, offering help, calling to see how things are going and visiting. Over time, though, many will stop. It’s not because they don’t care, but because they may not know what to do. Also, they may be uneasy or scared in the presence of a cancer diagnosis. If this happens, don’t waste precious time being concerned or surprised about this natural response to cancer.

Find someone to talk to about your feelings and emotions. 
Every caregiver’s journey is different, not only because of individual personalities but also due to the type of cancer and the intensity of treatment for their loved ones. All caregivers, however, have one thing in common: they become so focused in their caregiving roles, they ignore their own needs and feelings.  From the start, we suggest you find a person you can talk to about what you’re going through, and make plans to regularly check in with that person. It will help you stay strong.

Ask questions of your cancer care team. 
If you have questions about anything related to your loved one’s cancer experience, don’t hesitate to get the answers from your OhioHealth Cancer Care team. Tap into the expertise of our patient navigators, doctors and nurses. We are here for you.

Treatment can be tough on your loved one.

As a caregiver of a cancer patient, your role and responsibilities continue to increase as treatment progresses, and it can be easy to lose oneself in the process. As you continue to look after your loved one’s emotional and physical health, it is important for you also to look after your own emotional and physical health.

This isn't easy.  Any spare time you have is consumed with caregiving, on top of your routine responsibilities. To survive, you may become like a robot, trying to get everything done without emotion, which is a natural response, as you try to stay on top of everything, including your emotions.

We’re here to help you keep your life in balance; to find support groups and classes that can offer perspective and enlightenment; to connect you with people to talk to, as well as with other, additional resources to help you take care of yourself while you help your loved one heal.

Tips from Caregivers for Caregivers

Give assignments to family and friends.
There will come times when you simply can’t do everything by yourself. Call your friends and family, explain you need help and ask if they would be willing to take an assignment. Don’t withdraw from them, if you receive “no” for an answer. Simply thank them for their continued presence in your life and move on to the next person.

Learn when it’s important to say “no.”
So many people in your family and circle of friends will be filled with good intentions when it comes to providing help. It’s a blessing and a relief; however, there may be times when it’s right to say “no” in the best interest of the patient. An example might be if a person offers to spend time with the patient while you go to the gym, but you’re concerned about whether the person can manage if a problem should occur. Especially with severe cases of illness, not everyone is capable of taking care of your loved one. You know best when it’s important to say no.

Take time to record instructions.
Your loved one may be sent home from a hospital stay or a doctor’s appointment with instructions for follow-up treatment and appointments. Take a moment to sit down with the instructions, record them in your OhioHealth Cancer Planner and work out how they might affect your schedule.

Treatment plans can change in the course of cancer care. If you meticulously keep track of appointments, medications, timing of medications and other details, you’ll feel more in control of the changes and your schedule.

Create a document to manage medications.
Some cancer patients require several medications to be taken at various times of a day or week. Create a document that helps you keep track of them. It becomes an easy reference document that gives you control over the details.  Also, use the document to write down the patient’s reactions to the medications, if there are any.

The OhioHealth Cancer Planner is a convenient tool to use for this information.

Find someone to get you out of “the infirmary.”
You may feel the need to get a break from the topic of cancer every once in a while. Find a place where you can talk about other things (such as the gym or a book club) and people who will talk with you about your hobbies or cultural events that interest you. It may be just the change in atmosphere and conversation you need, so you can be refreshed, refueled and fully supportive of your loved one, who needs you.

Ask questions of your cancer care team.
If you have questions about anything related to your loved one’s cancer experience, don’t hesitate to get the answers from your OhioHealth Cancer Care team. Tap into the expertise of our patient navigators, doctors and nurses. We are here for you.

Their cancer treatment is done. That doesn't mean your responsibility is.

You’ve done an amazing thing by helping your loved one overcome cancer. But even though they are cancer-free, your role as Caregiver remains important as their needs shift from the short-term physical to the long-term emotional and psychological aspects of cancer survivorship.

A major part of survivorship is sharing. Encouraging your loved one to share his or her stories and experiences with others helps to give their ordeal purpose, and gives other patients perspective and hope. We offer a host of emotional support groups and classes and numerous health and wellness resources.

Tips from Caregivers for Caregivers 

Keep an eye on your loved one.
You may no longer be in an official caregiving role, but it’s important to be aware of changes. Is your cancer survivor a bit more tired today than usual? Is he struggling with his job because he’s not up to full strength yet? Is she trying to do too much? These are the things to notice and help manage, with encouragement and support. And if you’re concerned, contact your doctor.

Stay healthy together.
You’ve both been through a stressful time. It’s important now to focus on your good health with healthy foods, a good night’s sleep, exercise and other healthy activities. Fill the time on your schedule that used to be for treatment appointments with exercise, classes and healthy cooking.  Celebrate the joy of good health together.

Ask questions of your cancer care team. 
If you have questions about anything related to your loved one’s cancer experience, don’t hesitate to get the answers from your OhioHealth Cancer Care team. Tap into the expertise of our patient navigators, doctors and nurses. We are here for you.