Why is it important to ask for and accept help?
Caring for someone with cancer can be hard, time-consuming, and stressful. As a caregiver, you are at increased risk of emotional, mental, and physical health problems. You may feel stress, anger, anxiety, depression, fatigue, loneliness, and uncertainty. Caregivers need help. Some caregivers find it difficult to ask for help. You may feel embarrassed or like you are imposing on others. But getting caregiver help is important—for both for you and the person you are caring for. Help often enables caregivers to continue providing care. Accepting help from others can help you succeed.
How can others help me with caregiving?
Prepare a list of things that need to be done and update it as care needs change.
There are lots of ways people can help caregivers. When someone offers to help, let them. Ask them to:
- Spend time with the patient so you have time to take care of yourself. You need time for yourself each day.
- Give you a chance to talk through any feelings you have of anger, anxiety, sadness, fatigue, fear, and loneliness. Find a family member or friend that you can talk to.
- Help you find help if you’re struggling with stress, overload, substance abuse, or other issues. Consider a counselor, social worker, or minister.
- Spend time with your family, and get out of the house (if possible).
- Take a walk.
- Have a positive attitude. It is catching!
- Stay social if you can, a quick lunch, going to church.
Daily chores & activities
- Help shop for groceries, medications, or supplies.
- Prepare meals for your family or help you plan meals (if appropriate age consider Meals on Wheels).
- Keep track of the patient’s medications and refills.
- Direct patient care such as help with bathing.
- Help with yard work, dishes, laundry, and other household chores.
- Help with transportation, including driving or organizing rides (consider community transportation).
- Walk or feed your pet.
- Exercise with you—even if it is just a short walk. You need regular exercise.
- Sit with the patient.
- Help sort and pay bills.
- Look for resources in your community. Case managers at the cancer clinic or hospital may be able to help coordinate the patient’s care such as home care, transportation, and meal delivery.
- Keep other family and friends in the loop so they know when the patient needs change.
- Help you make a list of questions for the patient’s healthcare providers.
- Organize a family meeting so you can talk about tasks, what might be helpful, and update them on the patient’s care needs.
- Take the lead in writing and sharing the caregiver help plan and/or keeping it up-to-date.
- Help with insurance, including figuring out coverage, getting any needed pre-approvals for treatment, and keeping track of payments, reimbursement, and communications.
- Research any prescription assistance and other financial aid programs. Seek financial assistance and counseling in the community, specific to cancer.
- Help you research treatment options and understand what to expect.
- Prepare a travel pack for the patient to take to treatment.
- Make sure the patient’s home is safe for you and the patient (rugs, bars in the bathroom).
- Assist you with finding legal aids to address advance directives or living wills.
- Show your gratitude for the help you receive.
When and how do I ask for help?
It is never too early to ask for help. If you can, ask before you need it. This has the added benefit of giving others time to plan. If you constantly refuse help, people will stop asking and will not be there when you really need help and want it.
Start by asking the person you are taking care of to help you make a list of friends, family, and anyone else who might lend a hand. Do not overlook people you may not know well. People at your church, school, or work may want to help. Next, call the people on your list, and ask if they are willing to pitch in. Even if you do not end up needing their help, it will be good to know it is there just in case.
Remember that many people do want to help, but do not know what they can do. Tell them exactly what you would like. For example, “Can you take Joe for a lab draw on Monday morning before 9am?”
- Alfano, C.M., Leach, C.R., Smith, T.G., Miller, K.D., Alcaraz, K.I., Cannady, R.S., Wender, R.C., Brawley, O.W. (2019). Equitably improving outcomes for cancer survivors and supporting caregivers: A blueprint for care delivery, research, education, and policy. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 69(1), 35-49. DOI: 10.3322/caac.21548
- Cancer.Net. (2019). Caregivers Taking Care of Themselves. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/caring-loved-one/caregivers-t…
- Cancer.Net. (2023). Finding Social Support and Information. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cáncer/finding-social-support-and-in… Korotkin, B.D., Hoerger, M., Voorhees, S., Allen, C.O., Robinson, W.R., Duberstein, P.R. (2019). Social support in cancer: How do patients want us to help? Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 37(6), 699-712. doi: 10.1080/07347332.2019.1580331.