Cancer Caregiver Plan

By Karen Tripp MS LMFT  Executive Director Cancer Companions







Two Secret Battles of Care giving: Loneliness and Fatigue 

 Why do Caregivers often become lonely?

The average caregiver has been providing care for 4 years on average, spending

24.4 hours a week.  She is typically employed and working full time (an average of 34.7 hours per week).

Let’s do the math: 24 + 34 = 58 hours a week.  OR they are caring for someone 24 hours a day.

Then + caregiver fatigue and – connections with families and friends = Lonely Caregiver

Three priorities we will look at today:

  1. PRIORITY: In order to take care of the care recipient, the caregiver needs to take care of themselves.
  2. PRIORITY: In order to take care of the care recipient, the caregiver needs to be taken care of by others.
  • PRIORITY: Care givers and their loved ones are the experts of their own stress.  Share your needs.
  • PRIORITY: To take care of the care recipient, the caregiver needs to take care of themselves


  • 62% of caregivers said their own health suffered as a result of caring for a loved one.
  • 70% said their families were not working well together on a care giving plan.
  • 46% said they had inadequate financial resources due to care giving.

(The Total Cancer Wellness Guide p.160)

Fear: What happens if my caregiver gets sick?

What caregivers typically do NOT do:

  • They do not eat a balance diet.
  • They do not exercise regularly.
  • They do not get plenty of rest.
  • They do not consistently visit their own doctor.
  • They do not manage their own medications.
  • They do not manage stress appropriately.
  • They do not feel confident about finances.
  • PRIORITY: To take care of the care recipient, the caregiver needs to be taken care of by others.

A Plan for Care Giving (See chart)

1.Primary Caregiver: involved in interactions with medical staff as well as helping patient with physical needs, ie medical visits, giving prescriptions, food, etc. This role is usually filled by one person, but can be filled by two if they work well together as a team.

Goals of a primary caregiver:

  • To handle multiple goals concerning the physical treatment of your loved one.
  • For your relationship with your loved one to grow through the struggles of cancer.
  • For you to be healthy and be supported by secondary caregivers and support group.
  • To fulfill all the responsibilities your loved one had before the diagnosis.

2.Secondary Caregiver: Everyone else who physically cares for the patient and/or the caregiver.

Goals of a secondary caregiver:

  • to take care of the caregiver and the home and to remove stresses when requested. The primary caregiver needs to be cared for so he/she can care for the patient.

Who fits the bill?  Who do you know that has said “If you need anything, just let me know?”

  • Parents
  • Children
  • Neighbors
  • Siblings
  • Work friends
  • Church friends
  • Friends of parents
  • Friends of kids
  • School friends
  • Old friends
  • New friends
  • Pastor/church staff
  • PRIORITY: Care givers and their loved ones are the experts of their own stress.  Share your needs.  It’s cancer, MS, Parkinson, etc.!  They should know I need help.”

Don’t let people assume.

  • What you need.
  • What you find stressful.
  • What you find painful.

What keeps caregiver from asking for help?  Normal stuff like:

  • “I cannot ask people to do the things I am supposed to do.”
  • “You don’t know how hard it is for me to ask others for help.”
  • “I never ask people for help. I’m the one who helps other people.”
  • “There is no one to ask.”
  • “I’d rather do it myself.”
  • “They have enough to do.”
  • “I don’t want to be a burden.”
  • “Everybody’s busy.”
  • “I don’t want to impose.”

 Expressing Your Needs: Caregivers AND Care Recipients

Rate the difficulty for you of saying each statement below.    1 = easy                     10 = extremely difficult

___ “I’m too tired to go.”

___ “Thanks, but next time could you do it this way?”

___  “It’s OK. I want to do it myself.”

___ “I can’t do this anymore.  Could you finish?”

___ “The food looks good, but I can’t eat right now.”

___ “I don’t like taking it, but I need my medicine.”

___ “Would you just hold me for a few minutes?”

___ “Could you rub my shoulders?  I ache all over.”

___ “The prescription’s not working.  Could you call the doctor?”

___ “I’m sorry.  I need to leave.”

___ “I can’t.  I just can’t take on one more thing.”

___ “I need time off for a doctor’s appointment.”

___ “Yes, I need help.”

___ “Could you help me?”

(Cancer Companions Participant Guide p.100)

So how do you share your needs?    SPECIFICALLY!  Don’t vaguely ask people to do more.  Tell them exactly what to do.

  1. Make a list of needs and wants.
  2. Take some of the pressure of asking off of yourself by giving them the list and letting them choose.

Things Others Can Do to Reduce My Stress

Both caregivers and cancer patients, take a minute and check off below the areas of assistance that would relieve stress.

  • o          mow the lawn
  • o          drive to an appointment
  • o          walk the dog
  • o          clean out the litter box
  • o          stay and visit
  • o          update my blog
  • o          set up my Christmas tree
  • o          lighten my load at work
  • o          mop the kitchen
  • o          care for children
  • o          care for parents
  • o          top coat a driveway
  • o          paint a deck
  • o          rake yard
  • o          buy cards/stamps you can send to others
  • o          take car for tune-up
  • o          fill car with gas
  • o          arrange for car repairs
  • o          arrange for home repairs
  • o          take care giver to movie, fishing, ballgame,
  • o          take person w/ cancer to, movie, fishing, etc
  • o          pick up a prescription, run an errand.
  • o          call once a week to check in.

(Cancer Companions Participant Guide p.1

God is Bigger Than… a Little Yappy Dog

Have you ever seen a little dog that doesn’t know it’s a little dog?  I have.  I’m walking down the street and there’s this little dog about the size of my foot growling and yelping at this massive dog that could gobble it up without even having to swallow.  It’s as though the little dog is taunting the larger dog saying, “Come on!  Show me what ya got!  I can take you!”  Anyone looking can tell the little yappy dog doesn’t have a clue what he’s gotten himself into, but that doesn’t stop him from puffing out his chest and giving it all he’s got.

Unfortunately, the little yappy dog reminds me of me when I start yelping at other people that “I don’t need any help.  I’ve got it.”  “I’m fine.” Anyone with eyes can tell that the dark circles under my eyes are not a new fad in makeup but signs of exhaustion.  The twitching of my foot is not contained joy but uncontained anxiety.  But instead of turning to my Master and admitting my need, I just keep yapping.  I wish I could find a prettier word for this but it’s called pride.

This type of pride comes from the belief system that the only thing worse than being needy is having people see you’re needy.  I hate people feeling sorry for me.  So when I’m really drenched in pride, the last thing I want to do is admit I need anything from anybody– even prayer.  It’s in my prayer life that I know this is more than just resisting help from others; I’m resisting help from God.

Let’s say an occasion arises for someone to ask if I need prayer.  Too often I skip over my own needs and only ask for prayer for a friend or family member.  If they persist for a personal prayer about me, my mind tends to organize my excuses for not needing prayer for myself:  “They don’t need to hear my problems.”  Or “I don’t need prayer like those other really needy people.”  It finally boils down to thinking “I have my life under control.”  I so desperately don’t want to be one of those needy people, even though I so obviously, completely and totally am.

Author Donald Miller said it like this: “I love to give charity; but I don’t want to be charity.  This is why I have so much trouble with grace. ..It isn’t that I want to earn my own way to give something to God, it’s that I want to earn my own way so I won’t be charity.”

For some, it’s not a big deal to humble yourself to serve but it can be excruciating to humble yourself to receive.  I know.  I’m one of those folks.  James 4:10 says, Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  Humility requires laying yourself down before the Lord, acknowledging your lowliness, your neediness.  And then, through His gentleness and strength, the Lord will lift you up.  The weight of your pride will fall away and the Lord will indeed lift you up.  Amen

About Karen Tripp

Beyond being a Christian Counselor and the President of Cancer Companions, Karen loves to read (she's a great reader) and loves to sing (she's a bad singer) in her home near St Louis, MO. Cancer has personally touched Karen's personal life through her dad - a 23 year colon cancer survivor. Impacting lives for Christ through her speaking, writing and counseling fills Karen with a passion which infuses every task she approaches. (except matching socks. Karen hates matching socks.)
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