9 Tips for Caregivers: How to Help a Loved One with Cancer

By Meredith Begley,

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

elderly patient and caregiver

Caring for a loved one with cancer is a meaningful yet challenging role. We asked experienced caregivers to share some of the advice that helped them through the process. Here is what we learned:

1. Stay Organized

Keep a log: Write down any symptoms or problems in a notebook. It organizes your questions for each visit and makes it productive. It is a big responsibility to be a caregiver. You are emotionally attached to your patient. You’re not trained as a nurse or doctor, yet here you are fighting for a life, often far away from MSK. But together you realize you are part of a team that coordinates care. You can do things you didn’t think were possible.

— Linda Adragna, on Facebook

Back to top

2. Don’t Forget the Basics

Sleep becomes a very valuable commodity! If you’re not resting, you won’t be able to deal with everything. Eat well. I know the tendency is to sit down with a half gallon of ice cream and down the whole thing, but it’s not going to work. You have to eat well to keep up your energy and keep up your strength.

— Jim Cooper, in MSK’s “Advice for Caregivers” video

Back to top

3. Remember to Breathe

Remember to take a few deep breaths every day. Just that small act would slow down my racing heart and clear my mind. I wish had known to do this right from the beginning of my son’s journey.

— Ceil Fraticelli, on Facebook

Back to top

5. Go One Day at a Time

Take it one day at a time, so you don’t lose yourself under the stress of the unknown. Focus on the positives every day, and never pity yourself or your loved one who’s fighting. Positivity rubs off on people, but so does pity.

— @TL43TL, on Twitter

Back to top

6. Practice Self-Care

Taking care of yourself is very important. You can’t give proper care if you’re not taking care of yourself. You want to make sure that you don’t burn out and that you are your best self so that you can give the best care possible.

— Michelle Pierrot, in MSK’s “Advice for Caregivers” video

A Guide for Caregivers
This guide will help you care for someone who has cancer.
Learn more
Back to top

7. Call On Your Network

I soon realized I needed help, and there’s no way you can do this alone. I had a very good network of friends and I basically delegated: I asked them to do certain tasks for me.

— Joan Kilcommons, in MSK’s “Advice for Caregivers” video

Back to top

8. Know Where to Turn

I try to surround myself with people who are positive and who support me in the right way.

— Stacey Lawrence, at MSK’s CancerSmart panel discussion “Support for the Caregiver: Practical Advice and Tips for Coping”

Back to top

9. Enlist a Professional

Reach out to a psychologist. MSK has so many resources and there is so much help out there.

— Monica Magda Gheorghe, on Facebook

Back to top

Editor’s note: Comments have been lightly edited for clarity.

Add new comment

We welcome your questions and comments. While we share many of them with our world-class doctors and researchers, we regret that in order to protect your privacy, we are not able to make personal medical recommendations on this forum, nor do we publish comments that contain your personal information. If you would like to consult with an MSK doctor, we encourage you to make an appointment at 800-525-2225 or request an appointment online.

Your email address is kept private and will not be shown publicly.