Caregiver fatigue: tips to manage it


When was the last time you had a good night of sleep? When did you take some time for yourself? What about your health?

Taking care of a child with cancer is very demanding. Usually you do not have adequate time to relax, unwind, and/or get restorative sleep, which can lead to depression, anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain from injury or inflammation, and/or chronic illness.

Maybe you are suffering from caregiver fatigue?

What is caregiver fatigue?

Fatigue is an overwhelming sense of tiredness. If you are fatigued, you may have little energy to do the things you normally do—even if you are getting enough sleep. You may feel tired all the time, weak, worn-out, slow, or heavy. You may also feel sad, irritable, and frustrated. Fatigue can affect your quality of life, mood, relationships, and performance.

What can I do about my fatigue?

Here are some tips from the "help for cancer caregivers" platform and a couple we have added from personal experiences:

  • Try to get enough sleep.
  • Get help with caregiving and household chores so you can take breaks. Needing help doesn’t make you a bad caregiver. It simply means you can’t do it alone (no one can do it alone).
  • Nap no more than 30-45 minutes in the late morning or early afternoon.
  • Stay active during the day. Get at least 15 minutes of exercise every day.
  • Try not to overload your daily to-do list.
  • Make time for things you enjoy. Give yourself permission to take breaks. Get out of the house. Visit with friends. Pamper yourself with a massage. Take a long bath.
  • Get up 15 minutes earlier and use the time just for you. Sit with your coffee or tea and enjoy it. Journal about your struggles and feelings. Meditate, pray, stretch… Do whatever you want to do.
  • Eat well. Have healthy snacks around, like a bowl of fruit, vegetables, or cheese. Avoid fatty and fried foods especially at bedtime.
  • Drink water or beverages without caffeine to keep hydrated.
  • Avoid caffeine after 3pm, including coffee, colas, black teas, and chocolate.
  • Try relaxation exercises or meditation.
  • Take care of yourself.  Don’t skip your own doctor’s appointments because you’re too busy. Exercise; eat well; don’t sacrifice sleep.
  • Check into family-leave benefits from your place of work. It could take a huge weight off your shoulders by giving you more hours in your day.
  • Join a support group. Support groups can provide suggestions and reassurance in a safe environment.
  • Talk to others about your fatigue.

When should I talk to my doctor about my fatigue?

Talk to your doctor if you are:

  • Unable to get out of bed for 24 hours
  • Having a hard time focusing while talking, reading, watching TV, etc.
  • Unable to do your usual daily activities
  • Have severe chills or sweats
  • Have a temperature above 100.9 F (38.3 C) or a temperature higher than 100.4 F (38.0 C) that lasts for more than an hour
  • Are short of breath

Also let your doctor know:

  • When your fatigue started
  • If it’s gotten worse
  • What helps or makes it worse
  • How it affects your activities

There is support, there are short cuts, there is the reorganization of priorities that can make you a happier person and a better caregiver. Think of these steps as a fire extinguisher on caregiver fatigue to avoid any burnout.

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