Caring for someone who has cancer

What is a carer?

A carer provides unpaid care and support to a person who needs this assistance because of a disease such as cancer. Anyone can be a carer, regardless of your age, sex, sexuality, profession or cultural background.  Carers can also be a partner, family member, friend or neighbour.

You may not see yourself as a carer. You may think you are just helping out. Recognising you are a carer can be an important step in getting the support you need. Becoming a carer can be sudden; for others, it could be a gradual process.

Being a carer for someone can mean:

  • Helping with medical support
  • Manage medicines
  • Work with the health care team/update them
  • Manage appointments
  • Report any changes/deterioration in the person you are caring for to their medical team
  • Emotional support
  • Companionship
  • Listening ear/face to face or telephone
  • Liaise with key people and perhaps talking to other people on their behalf, such as health and social care professionals
  • Practical support
  • Shopping
  • Cooking
  • Personal care
  • Driving them to appointments
  • Helping with everyday tasks

Caring for someone with cancer

If you are the main carer for the person with cancer, inform their healthcare team. You can also talk to them about any concerns you that you may notice.

If the person you are caring for is in hospital, talk to the healthcare team about organising any support and services you need before they come home. At home, the district nurses, social worker or occupational therapist can usually arrange more help if it is needed. We have more information about looking after someone at home.

How much you do and what care you provide may change over time. You may start to do less if the person you are helping has finished treatment and is recovering. If the cancer becomes more advanced, you may decide to do more. This depends on your situationThis guide for people affected by cancer gives tips on how carers can look after themselves while supporting…

Coping with being a carer

Every caring situation is different. Your responsibilities will depend on what are the person needs and what you are able to offer.You may be sharing these responsibilities with family or friends, or you may be the main carer.

Being a carer can be rewarding but the physical and emotional demands can be difficult. You might have a lot of different feelings, such as sadness, anger, guilt and loneliness.

You may have to balance caring with other things, such as working and other relationships. Getting support and having someone you can talk to about how you feel might help you cope.

Becoming a carer can be a big change in your life. It can take time for you to adjust to the changes. It is important to look after your own well-being and health needs.

Who can support me?

Different health and social care professionals can support you as carer. If you are the main carer for a person with cancer, ask social services for an assessment of your needs. This is called a carer’s assessment. The assessment may help you get practical support, if you qualify.

As a carer, you may also need financial support. You may be able to claim Carer’s Allowance. If you qualify for Carer’s Credit, it protects your right to a State Pension later in life.

It is a good idea to think about who might be able to help you, such as family and friends. If you are finding it hard to cope, try to talk to someone about how you are feeling. You could talk to a friend, your GP, or call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00

Support for carers:

Carers UK

020 7378 4999

Carers Direct

0300 123 1053

Carers Trust

0300 772 9600

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