Caring for the Caregiver

A cancer diagnosis not only affects the patient. It also can affect the caregiver. Caregiver fatigue, or even burnout, can be brought on by the physical and emotional demands of caring for a loved one with cancer.

Below is a list of tips to help combat the fatigue you may face as a caregiver. It is important to maintain your health and well-being so that you can provide the best possible care to your loved one.

  • Take time for yourself and your own needs. Watch for signs of stress such as impatience, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, or difficulty concentrating or remembering. Be aware of any changes in your mood, decreased interest in usual activities or inability to accomplish usual tasks.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet. Drink plenty of water or juice every day.
  • Exercise by taking short walks daily, or at least three times a week.
  • Listen to relaxation tapes or music to help reduce stress.
  • Space your activities with short rest periods. Get a good night's sleep.
  • Set limits with your loved one. Determine what self-care tasks he or she can perform.
  • Don't overload your daily "things to do" list. Be realistic.
  • Find time several times a week for activities that are meaningful and pleasurable to you.
  • Let family members and friends help. Delegate household chores, meals, childcare, or shopping. (For more ideas, please read Delegation to Help with Fatigue.) Visit the Cancer Resource Center for referrals to respite care and other community resources to allow yourself some time to rejuvenate.
  • Keep the lines of communication open between your loved one, your family and friends, and the oncology nurse.
  • Share your feelings with family members or other caregivers, or join a support group. For a list of support groups, contact the Cancer Resource Center at (415) 885-3693.
  • Give yourself credit — the care you give does make a difference.

More Information:

For additional information or resources, please visit:

Cancer Resource Center
1600 Divisadero St., First Floor
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 885-3693

Adapted from Self-Care for the Caregiver by the Oncology Nursing Society 2001


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.