Caregivers, family and friends

What’s involved?

There are no rules about what caring for someone with cancer involves. It depends on each person’s needs and limitations and what other help and support you may have.

Caring for someone with cancer can involve the following:

  • Practical help like shopping, cleaning, picking kids up from school, driving to medical appointments.

  • Helping them follow health advice by making sure the person with cancer has their medicines and looking out for side effects or signs that they are having trouble sticking to health advice, for example smoking or drinking a lot of alcohol.

  • Organisation by helping coordinate appointments, deal with medical forms and bills, or getting information about, and applying for, financial support.

  • Counselling in the form of listening, providing emotional support, and looking for signs the person with cancer might not be coping or be depressed and need professional help.

  • Making decisions such as getting a second opinion or more information about treatment If the person with cancer becomes very ill and is unable to express their wishes you may be the person who makes decisions about their care.

  • Being an advocate by making sure their needs are met and they get the support they are eligible for.

  • Finding a ‘new normal’ by supporting and encouraging them to cope with changes, reconnect to family and friends and possibly go back to work or activities they enjoy.

Being a caregiver has been described as one of the toughest, but also the most rewarding, challenges. The thought of caring for someone with cancer can be frightening. You may worry that you don’t have the skills or emotional strength. But many people who have done it say it can be rewarding and satisfying to help someone when they need it the most. You may be able to cope better if you have someone outside the family to talk to like a counsellor or psychologist. Your GP or the cancer care team may be able to help to find someone to talk with.

The most important thing is to get advice and support, and to look after yourself