More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking. For every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Taking care of someone living with an illness or disability may include helping them with one or more activities important for daily living, such as bathing and dressing, paying bills, shopping, and providing transportation. It also may involve emotional support and help with managing a chronic disease or disability.
- In the United States, 1 in 5 adults provide regular care or assistance to a family member or friend with a health problem or disability. *
- Learn what percent of people currently smoke cigarettes, both in the United States overall and among specific populations.
Meet Asaad M. and Leah M. Asaad, age 25, lives in California with his mother, Leah, age 52. Leah has colorectal cancer from smoking that metastasized to her lung. Asaad was 19 years old when he put his life on hold to take care of his mom.
Meet Dana S. Dana, age 38, lives in North Carolina and began smoking as a young teenager. She helped care for her mother, Tips participant Terrie, through Terrie’s battle with smoking-related cancer.
Meet Denise H. Denise, age 66, lives in Texas. She never smoked, but her husband, Tips participant Brian H., smoked for years. She has taken care of him through his smoking-related heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer diagnosis and treatments.
Meet Leonard N. Leonard, famous for his role as Spock in Star Trek, lived in California and started smoking as a teenager. He quit smoking 37 years later, but his lungs were badly damaged. Leonard died in February 2015 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Learn more about all Tips participants in our Real Stories section.
Denise H., age 66, has taken care of her husband, Tips participant Brian H., through years of treatments for his smoking-related heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer. Eventually she had to quit her job to care for him full-time. To avoid burning out, Denise found ways to relieve her stress, like going for a walk and working out at the gym.
“Find at least an hour and do what you want, otherwise you’ll go crazy.”
Caregiving can be emotionally and physically demanding. Stress from these demands can cause the caregiver to develop health problems, including sleep problems and appetite changes, and lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, or even loneliness. About half of caregivers don’t get enough restful, continuous sleep, which, in turn, can affect quality of life. If you are a caregiver, it is important to care for yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Stay Physically Healthy
- Don’t use tobacco. If you smoke, try to quit. Stay away from other people’s smoke.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Keep a healthy weight.
- Be physically active.
- Get enough restful sleep.
- Get health checkups regularly.
- Get a flu shot every year.
Stay Mentally and Emotionally Healthy
- Reach out to family members, friends, those who share your faith, or a support group for emotional support.
- Stay active. Regular physical activity is linked to lower rates of depression.
- Find time to relax. Take at least 15-30 minutes each day to do something for yourself. For example, try to make time for a nap, exercise, yard work, a hobby, watching TV or a movie, or whatever you find relaxing. Do gentle exercises, such as stretching or yoga. Or, take deep breaths or just sit still for a minute.
- Don’t neglect your personal life. Cut back on personal activities, but do not cut them out entirely. For example, look for easy ways to connect with friends.
- Keep up your routine. If you can, try to keep doing some of your regular activities. If you don’t, studies show that it can increase the stress you feel. You may have to do things at a different time of day or for less time than you normally would, but try to still do them.
- Ask for help. Find larger chunks of “off-duty” time by asking for help. Find things others can do or arrange for you, such as appointments or errands Ɨ.
These additional resources from CDC are available for people taking care of a loved one with an illness or disability:
- Caring for Yourself When Caring for Another
- Care Plans Help Both Older Adults and Caregivers
- Caregiving for Family and Friends — A Public Health Issue
* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Caregiving for Family and Friends — A Public Health Issue. Data collected from Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 2015 – 2017. [Page last reviewed: 2019 Oct 10. Page accessed: 2019 Dec 17].
Ɨ National Cancer Institute. Support for Caregivers of Cancer Patientsexternal icon. [Page updated: 2020 January 3. Page accessed: 2020 January 29].