Q. My grandmother has cancer. I'm worried about her, but even more so, I'm worried about my mom. She tries hard to be strong for everyone, but she is just so run down herself. She seems uncomfortable letting us be there for her. Any advice?


Have you told your mom what you told me – that you want to be there for her and help care for your grandmother? Caregivers often feel they need to do everything themselves to make sure things get done as best as possible. This often leaves little room for others to help, and the caregiver ends up exhausted.

Let your mother know that you are concerned and want to support her. Be clear about how you can help. Your mom might reject a general offer of help, but she might let you assist in specific ways, like driving your grandmother to an appointment or doing chores around the house.

If she still resists, ask her to think about how good it makes her feel to do things for her own mom. Then let her know that you would like to experience that good feeling, too, by supporting her. This approach works well with people who are caregivers by nature and have trouble accepting help.

Your mom may feel uncomfortable sharing with you her feelings about her mother’s illness. Still, you can support her emotionally by steering her toward helpful resources, including our publications, Caregiving for Your Loved One With Cancer and Caring Advice for Caregivers: How Can You Help Yourself?. We also offer telephone and online support groups for caregivers, and can help you find support groups in your area.

Additional resources you might find helpful include:

Remind your mom that one of the best things she can do for everyone involved is to take care of herself by eating and sleeping enough, guarding her own health (taking medications, exercising, getting to doctor’s appointments, etc.), and taking time for herself.