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Kinds of caring

Caring for someone with cancer

How much you have to do for the person you care for will depend on the type and severity of their cancer. See the Health A-Z topic about cancer for more information about the different types of cancer.

Medical support and advice

It's important to have a list of people who can give medical support. A GP or oncologist (cancer specialist) will usually be the best person to speak to. Macmillan Cancer Support (0808 808 00 00) and Cancer Research UK (0808 800 40 40) both have teams of trained nurses. The care that you give may need to change as the symptoms of cancer or side effects of any medication change. Some symptoms may get worse and some may get better, but it's important to know when to be concerned.

Macmillan nurses

Macmillan nurses can be a great source of specialist cancer information, advice and support. You may be able to get help from a Macmillan nurse in or outside hospital. Ask your GP what Macmillan nurse services are available in your area.

Moving and handling

If the person you care for has mobility issues because of their cancer, you'll probably need to help them get about. This might involve lifting them out of a chair or bath, or helping them to get around. If so, make sure you have training in how to lift someone, or seek advice so you don't damage your back. See moving and lifting for more information. If you need equipment to help you move or handle the person you care for, contact your local authority.

Changing the layout of your house may help. For example, if the person you care for has trouble getting up and down stairs, you could move their bedroom downstairs. You may be able to get financial help to make adaptations to your home.

Household chores

Try not to turn down offers of help. Activities like keeping the house clean may drop down your list of priorities, but if someone else can do this or help you for an hour or two, it can give you one less thing to worry about. For more information, read about home help.

Money and benefits

Your role in your relationship may change as you become a carer. For example, your partner may have dealt with household finances in the past, but now this is your responsibility. If you're not sure how to deal with new responsibilities, ask for help so you don't become overwhelmed.

Make sure you get all the financial support you're entitled to. While this can be daunting, you can get support by getting a benefits check. You can find help at your local Citizens Advice Bureau or carers' centre, or Macmillan Cancer Support can offer advice about cancer. Use the GOV.UK benefits checker to see what you might be entitled to.

Your emotions

Caring for someone with cancer can be emotionally draining and scary. You're likely to feel angry at some point and start to wonder why the person you care for is affected by cancer. You may also resent the fact that you have to sacrifice certain areas of your life to fulfil your caring role.

It can also be easy to feel isolated and lonely when caring for someone with cancer. Your friends might be too worried about offending you to offer help. They may think you're coping well, particularly if you haven't told them that you find things difficult.

Make sure you have family or friends you can confide in. You may feel pressure to pretend that everything's OK, but it's normal to experience a range of feelings. You might go from feeling positive pride in your caring role, to feeling utterly exhausted, frustrated and guilty.

If you feel you can't open up to friends or family, you may find it easier to speak with other carers in the same position. Self-help groups are available for people caring for someone with cancer. Search the directory of local carers' support for details of your closest carers group, or check the Macmillan Cancer Support website for details of these groups.

You may find it helpful to talk about the difficulties of caring for someone with cancer. Call the Carers Direct helpline free on 0300 123 1053 to find sources of emotional support in your area.

End of life care

Through Marie Curie Cancer Care, people can choose where they're cared for and where they want to die. This may be through the support of a Marie Curie nurse in their home, or through a place at a Marie Curie hospice. Contact them directly for details of their services and how they might be able to help you.

Caring for someone who is dying is tough. How you deal with it will partly depend on how the person you care for approaches their own death. Try to be sensitive to how they feel, but if you don't feel you can talk to them about it, make sure there is someone you can talk to about your own experience. For more information, see the section on end of life care.

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Page last reviewed: 19/08/2013

Next review due: 19/08/2015

Call Carers Direct on 0300 123 1053

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Find out more about the Carers Direct helpline.

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Media last reviewed: 14/11/2013

Next review due: 14/11/2015