A Caregiver's Role in Caring for People with Ovarian Cancer

Being a caregiver for a friend or family member can be challenging, especially if they have an advanced form of cancer. Caregiving can involve providing help and support in many different ways during their cancer journey.

Most people are not formally trained to be caregivers, which can add to the stress or challenges of caregiving. Knowing what your role as a caregiver can involve, ways to take care of yourself, and available resources can help you focus on caring for your loved one and provide the support they need.

Things you might be doing as a caregiver

Caregiving can involve a variety of things. Your role can change over time, from diagnosis and treatment to recovery or recurrence (return of the cancer). Your loved one might need more help and support at various times, so your care may look different. Some things you might do as a caregiver may include:1

  • Taking care of everyday things, like shopping, meal preparation, cleaning the house, paying bills, helping with grooming and dressing
  • Taking your loved one to and from the doctor, listening to what the doctor says, keeping track of medicines, and providing physical and emotional support before, during, and after appointments
  • Keeping track of side effects, medicines, questions, and personal needs
  • Coordinating medical care
  • If your loved one needs assistance, you might be their advocate or spokesperson

Talking with your loved one about what they need and how you can best help them can give you an idea of what you might be able to provide.

Self-care for caregivers

Caregiving is demanding work, both physically and emotionally. It is important that you also take care of yourself to stay healthy. You may be worried or stressed about your loved one or even lonely from lack of support. Nearly half of all caregivers do not get restful, continuous sleep, which can have a major impact on the quality of life.2

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Keeping physically healthy can include:2

  • Getting regular checkups
  • Not using tobacco, or quitting smoking
  • Eating a healthy diet and reducing alcohol consumption
  • Staying physically active
  • Getting a flu shot

Your emotional health is also very important, especially when providing care for someone you love. You can stay mentally and emotionally healthy by:2

  • Asking for help when you need it. You may need to ask someone to take a caregiving shift for you, find a support group or therapist, or reach out to friends and neighbors for help with small tasks
  • Staying active, as regular physical activity can reduce your risk of depression
  • If you are overwhelmed, look into respite care or help with caregiving so you can get a short break

Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Taking care of yourself is an important part of being a caregiver.

Resources for caregivers

Even if you are the sole caregiver for your loved one, you do not have to do this alone. There are resources out there for you.

Talk with your loved one’s treatment team about your role. Ask if there are any caregiver support groups at the hospital or cancer treatment center. You can also check out the American Cancer Society caregiver resource page or the National Cancer Institute caregiver resource and support page.

You can also check out the National Alliance of Caregiving for links to various organizations and resources that might be helpful.

If there is something specific that you and your loved one need help with, talk with their treatment team. Ask if there is an available social worker who can listen to your concerns and share information on caregiver resources. It is okay to ask for help to ensure your loved one gets the care they need.

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Written by: Jaime Rochelle Herndon | Last reviewed: May 2021