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Prince William's wife and father were diagnosed with cancer within weeks of each other. We spoke to a social worker about how caregivers can cope.

Prince William's wife and father were diagnosed with cancer within weeks of each other. We spoke to a social worker about how caregivers can cope.
  • King Charles III and Kate Middleton both announced they had cancer this year.

  • Prince William likely took on a caregiver role for his family members.

  • Monica Cwynar, a social worker, told BI that caregivers should prioritize self-care.

Prince William's wife and father both announced separate cancer diagnoses within a month of each other.

Buckingham Palace announced King Charles III's diagnosis in a statement shared in February, just weeks after the 75-year-old underwent treatment for an enlarged prostate.

Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, later announced her cancer diagnosis in a video statement in March. Her diagnosis came after she underwent abdominal surgery in January.

King Charles III, Kate Middleton, and Prince William in March 2013.
King Charles III, Kate Middleton, and Prince William.WPA Pool/Getty Images

Monica Cwynar, a licensed clinical social worker and an adjunct professor at Pennsylvania Western University, told Business Insider that learning to cope with one or more relatives' cancer diagnoses is often overwhelming, especially when coupled with taking on a caregiver role.

"It's an emotionally and physically challenging role," Cwynar said.

Cwynar is a full-time therapist but previously served as a hospice social worker, so she's familiar with caregiver burnout. Cwynar, who works with the Cultural Humility and Equity Collaborative, advised caregivers on navigating the role and addressing burnout.

Cwynar said stress is an unavoidable part of becoming a caregiver, but it's important for them to acknowledge their emotions

Cwynar said stress can manifest for caregivers in various ways, including "physical exhaustion, emotional strain, social isolation, and mental health challenges like anxiety, depression, and frustration."

She emphasized that these feelings are normal and that caregivers should give themselves room during this time.

"Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions in response to the diagnosis, such as shock, sadness, anger, and fear," Cwynar said. "It's important to acknowledge and process these feelings in a healthy way."

Unchecked stress can lead to caregiver burnout that can negatively affect them and their loved ones

male care assistant with patient.
Caregivers can face burnout if stress goes unchecked. Maskot/Getty Images

Cwynar said there's no specific time caregiver burnout will strike.

"It can occur when caregivers experience prolonged stress and exhaustion from providing care to loved ones," she said.

Emotional distress, heightened irritability, anxiety, depression, and feelings of resentment can all go hand in hand with caregiver burnout. Cwynar added that weary caregivers can also experience sleep issues, appetite changes, weight changes, exhaustion, isolation, brain fog, and physical symptoms such as hives.

Burnout can also surface when caregivers neglect their own health and hygiene.

"Self-care is essential for maintaining your well-being and resilience as a caregiver. By taking care of yourself, you are better equipped to provide effective care and support for your loved ones. You have to take care of yourself," she said.

But she knows that can sometimes be easier said than done and might stir feelings of guilt.

"Remember that caring for yourself is not selfish," Cwynar said. "It's necessary for sustaining your caregiving role and overall well-being. Step away. Prioritize self-care, seek support, and be kind to yourself as you navigate the challenges of being a caregiver."

There are ways to minimize stress, including setting boundaries

Support Group
Joining a support group can help caregivers cope with stress. Drazen Zigic/Getty Images

Cwynar said caregivers should set realistic expectations and recognize that they can't do everything perfectly.

"Delegate tasks when possible," she said. "Ask for help when needed and focus on what is important for your loved ones' care."

She also said it's good for caregivers to establish boundaries between their caregiver life and their personal life. Joining a caregiver-support group can also help, in addition to taking regularly scheduled breaks and exercising.

"As caregiver burnout is impacting your mental health or well-being, consider seeking therapy or counseling to address your emotional needs," she said. "Remember that taking care of yourself is essential to continue providing effective care to your loved one."

Read the original article on Business Insider