While you are busy looking after someone, you may find it difficult to look after your own health and wellbeing.
You may downplay your own health needs. It’s okay to acknowledge that you are not feeling well without comparing it to how the person with cancer is feeling.
Maintaining fitness and eating well can help carers cope with the physical and emotional demands of caring.
Ways to stay healthy
Below are some tips for carers to stay healthy.
Eat healthy meals and snacks
If the person has long treatment sessions or appointments, or is in hospital, you may need to bring healthy foods and drinks from home. Avoid snacks that are high in added fats, sugars and salt, such as chips, biscuits and chocolate.
Get enough sleep and rest
Tiredness and exhaustion often make everything seem harder. If your sleep is disrupted by your caring responsibilities, try to grab a few minutes’ rest throughout the day whenever the opportunity comes up.
Avoid using alcohol or cigarettes to relax
These may seem to help for a short time, but they contribute to other problems. If you smoke, call the Quitline on 13 7848 to talk to an adviser and request a free Quit Pack.
Be active for 30 minutes each day
This can increase your energy levels, help you sleep better and improve your mood. If you can leave the house, a walk, run or swim may help. A stationary exercise bike, a yoga/meditation mat or an online program can allow you to exercise at home. Doing any physical activity is better than none.
Have regular check-ups
It’s important to maintain regular visits to your GP, dentist, optometrist and other health professionals. See your GP if you notice changes in your sleep patterns, weight or mood.
Stay in touch with friends and family
Maintaining relationships can help you feel connected to others, reduce stress and provide an opportunity to talk about topics aside from your role as a carer.
I had to reassess how I was looking after myself. I ended up being really overdue for a Pap smear because I just hadn’t had the opportunity or even the headspace really to think about myself very much.Susan
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr Laura Kirsten, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, NSW; Mary Bairstow, Senior Social Worker, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Anne Booms, Nurse Practitioner – Supportive and Palliative Care, Icon Cancer Centre Midland, WA; Dr Erica Cameron-Taylor, Staff Specialist, Department of Palliative Care, Mercy Hospice, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Tracey Gardner, Senior Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council Queensland; Louise Good, Cancer Nurse Consultant, WA; Verity Jausnik, Senior Policy Officer, Carers Australia; David Larkin, Cancer Supportive Care Manager, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital and Health Service, ACT; Kate Martin, Consumer; John McMath, Consumer; Simone Noelker, Physiotherapist and Wellness Centre Coordinator, Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, VIC; Tara Redemski, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer Care, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Dean Rowe, Consumer; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.