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Are You a Caregiver?

Are you caring for someone with illness? 

If you are caring for someone living with illness, dealing with the unknown can be difficult.  Your friend or family member may experience physical changes, strong emotions and spiritual questions.   His or her day-to-day life may change.

As a caregiver, you may experience both gifts and challenges.  You may feel unprepared for your caregiving role and unsure how it fits with the rest of your life.  You may also face tough questions and rethink what matters most. 

1.  Access Resources

You will find helpful resources about illness and about caregiving.

  • Check the Resources section to find information, organizations and websites on illness and caregiving
  • Be sure to read “Finding and Evaluating Resources on the Internet” at the beginning of the Resource guide. 
  • See Publications and Educational Events for further resources on illness, caregiving, end of life issues and grief.  

2.  Experience Support

When offering care to someone living with illness, it’s important for you to have ongoing support from others.  Without positive, helpful support, you may feel alone or become burned out.

Here are some steps you can take to reach out for support:

  • Encourage understanding.   Often family members, friends and neighbors and co-workers don’t know what to say or do.  Ask your family and friends to learn more about living with illness and caregiving.  Suggest Project Compassion’s website as a starting place.
  • Rethink what it means to ask for support.  Begin by thinking about one or two things you would really enjoy doing if you had the time and energy.  Then think of one or two challenging things you must do that require time and energy, keeping you from doing things you enjoy.  Share your insight with a family member or friend who may be able to help.  For example:   “Bill, I really miss going to my art class on Saturday afternoons but that’s the only time I have now to run errands.  Would you be willing to do errands for me some Saturday so I can go to class?  That would give me the chance to see my friends and take a break.”
  • Seek out online support.  Use websites such as or others to communicate with family, friends and others living with illness.  See the resources section of the website for a complete list.
  • Tell your friends about Lotsa Helping Hands.  Have your friends create an online community to coordinate support.  At Project Compassion, we partner with Lotsa Helping Hands to provide this free service.  Click here to learn how it works: 
    Send this link to your friends to help them organize.    
  •  Request a Support Team.  Support teams are coordinated groups of friends or neighbors who can offer you practical, emotional, spiritual and quality of life support while you’re living with illness and caregiving. 
  • If you are in Durham, Orange or Chatham county in NC, Project Compassion will organize a Support Team for you free of charge.  To learn more, click here. 
  • African Americans living in Durham, Orange, Chatham or Wake counties can also tap into free support through Circles of Care.  To learn more, click here.
  • If you are outside of Durham, Orange and Chatham counties, NC, you can purchase Project Compassion’s Support Team Guidebook.  We recommend that you share the guide with a friend who has leadership skills or with an organization, such as a faith community, that may be able to help.  Ask them to review the materials and take the lead on organizing a team.   If they would like to learn more, refer them to Support Team Development.

3.  Learn Advocacy Skills

Half of all Americans will reach a time when they are unable to speak for themselves to make important health care decisions due to illness or accident.  As a caregiver, you can learn to advocate effectively for others:

  • understand their choices and make them clearly known
  • help prevent potential medical errors
  • be prepared so you will be able to advocate effectively for yourself when needed

Here are resources available to help you improve your patient advocacy skills:

4.  Plan Ahead

Whether or not you are living with a serious illness, it’s important to plan ahead.

5.  Find Ways to Give Back

Part of living with caregiving often includes a strong desire to give back.  While everyone’s capacity to give is different, we encourage you to find the way that works best for you.  Here are some ideas:

  • Say “thank you.”  Living with illness and caregiving takes time and energy.  Taking the time to say “thank you” is an easy and meaningful way to give back.
  • Give in small ways that fit with things you love to do.  For example, if you used to enjoy baking, writing notes, woodworking, you may enjoy using your gifts to create gifts.  You might make time and energy for doing this by asking a friend or other family member to help you out with something you don’t enjoy doing!   
  • Make a donation to support others living with illness.  By making a donation to Project Compassion, you ensure that others living with illness will have access to important resources and services.  To learn more about the impact of a donation, click here.  Please make a donation today!

We hope these resources and ideas will help you on your journey with illness.  We encourage you to explore our website fully, subscribe to our e-letter and tell your friends about our resources.  We look forward to having you as part of our Project Compassion community!

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