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Caring for a person with cancer can be demanding physically, emotionally and sometimes financially.
Carers and caregivers provide unpaid help and support to others with cancer who could not otherwise manage without this help. Carers may be partners, parents, other family members, friends or neighbours.
Being a carer for someone will often include:
The emotional impact of cancer can be significant for carers. Many carers feel a range of different emotions, including shock, anxiety, worry, fear, sadness and grief. It’s also very common to feel angry and frustrated at times too.
You might not think of yourself as being a carer, particularly if the person you are caring for is someone close to you. However, recognising your caring role is important so you get the support you need. Having support may allow you to enjoy time more with the person you care for.
Knowing that the person you are caring for will not get better can be very difficult to cope with and may also affect your own physical and mental health, so looking after yourself is important.
Help and support is available for carers.
Your GP can provide support to you at this time along with the treatment team or palliative care team looking after the person you are caring for. They can also tell you what support is available in your area.
If you need any medical advice about the person you are caring for, you can contact their GP, specialist nurse, or a member of their treatment or palliative care team providing you have been given permission
If you provide ongoing care at home, respite care allows you to take a break. This means that someone else can take over your caring responsibilities for a short period of time, whether this is a few hours at home or a few days in a residential home or hospice.
You can ask your healthcare team or social services about what is available in your area. Your GP, district nurse or palliative care nurse may be able to arrange longer breaks.
Carers often need personal space and time to themselves to help them cope.
Looking after yourself enables you to think about your own needs and get the right support. This in turn can often also help you be a more effective carer.
It’s not unusual for carers to feel guilty about taking time out for themselves. You may not eat as well as you would normally, or you may find you aren’t sleeping as well, which leads to feeling tired and run down.
Cancer, Caring, Coping shares the experiences of cancer caregivers who want to give support, advice and tips for coping in a caring role. They also offer guidance to carers on how to look after themselves as well the person they are caring for.
Tips for looking after yourself.
Finance and the impact on their job or career is a concern for many carers. Talking to your employer will help them understand your situation and hopefully be more supportive.
Carers’ rights at work are protected by law. If you are caring for someone with secondary breast cancer, you may be able to ask for flexible working arrangements or carer’s leave to help you find a balance between work and your caring responsibilities.
Social workers can also offer support at this time and may be able to talk to your employer on your behalf.
You can find out more about financial support and benefits for carers on the GOV.UK website.