Psychologist offers tips for caregivers

- When we think about cancer, we think about the patient, and everything they may be going through.

"But a lot of that is experienced by the caregivers as well," says Dr. Jennifer Kilkus, Ph,D., a clinical psychologist, who works with both patient and caregivers at WellStar Kennestone Cancer Center in Marietta, Georgia.

"It's an emotional challenge, sometimes a financial and physical challenge as well, to be a caregiver," Kilkus says. 

By the time she meets caregivers, Kilkus says, they're often worn down by trying to take care of a sick loved one and carry more of the workload at home.

It's getting to the point where it's unmanageable," she says. ""It's an emotional stress that I don't think a lot of caregivers think they can talk about, because they don't want to burden the person who is actually going through treatment."

If you're a caregiver, Kilkus says the first thing she'd suggest is finding a caregiver support group, where you can talk to others going through what you're facing, and feeling.

"It normalizes a lot of those feelings," she says. "So you don't feel so alone and isolated anymore, just in this rowboat by yourself, trying to keep everything afloat. You have other people who know exactly what that feels like to have all those conflicting feelings at the same time."

Next, Kilkus says, don't be afraid to ask for help, 

"So be specific about what it is that you need," she says. "If you need someone to go to the grocery store for you. To more your lawn, or to watch your kids so you can take a shower by yourself. Ask for the people around you to give you the help you need. They want to help. Everyone is feeling helpless in this situation."

Finally, she suggests sticking with your routine as much as you can, and carving out time for yourself, to do something you enjoy.

"And if you can't, the bare minimum I tell people is 10 to 15 minutes a day of being by yourself and doing something that gives you energy, instead of having all your energy being spent on things that feel like they're wearing you down," she says. The National Alliance for Caregiving has compiled a list of resources that might be helpful to caregivers.

You can find it at caregiving.org/resources/general-caregiving/

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