Caring for someone with cancer

This information is for people who are looking after someone with cancer.

A carer is a person who helps someone with a disability or through an illness such as cancer.

As a carer you may be a family member, relative, friend or neighbour. You may provide care for a few hours once a week or 24 hours a day. You may be assisting with daily chores, preparing meals and co-ordinating doctors’ visits, or you could be providing emotional and spiritual support. Sometimes carers live interstate and help by co-ordinating care over the phone.

Where can I get information about being a carer?

When someone you love has cancer things can change for everyone.  Caring can be both a wonderful and a challenging experience.  It is important that you learn about the needs of the person you are caring for.

As a carer of someone with cancer you may find the following booklet particularly helpful.

  • Caring for someone with cancer is a booklet which includes information on common emotional reactions, other carers' experiences, caring for yourself, asking others for help, how relationships change, communication, advanced cancer, death and grieving and support and information. 

Carers WA is a non-profit community-based organisation dedicated to improving the lives of the estimated 310,000 family carers living in Western Australia. This organisation offers free membership and provides information and support to you in your caring role.  There is a wide range of information and resources available on their website under the Carer Information section. You can contact your nearest Carers association on 1300 227 377 to obtain free information on a range of topics.

The Commonwealth Carer Resource Centres provide carers with information and advice about their caring role and services to assist them. Call 1800 052 222 for further information.

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What practical support is available to help me care for someone with cancer?

The practical skills and knowledge required to provide effective care or to support your family member or friend can be daunting, especially if your caring role is unexpected . You might find the information about Coping with the practical issues after a cancer diagnosis helpful.

The Carers WA website also provides some very helpful information about services and practical strategies to help you manage your day to day responsibilities.

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Where can I get information or help in understanding the emotions and feelings of being a carer?

Caring may affect you in many different ways. It can be a lot of things; confusing, scary, lonely and much more. You may find that you have feelings that are hard to understand and sometimes hard to talk about. Remember, feelings are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. They are just feelings and are usually perfectly normal and shared by many others. Even if you try to wish them away, to ignore them, or if you feel guilty or ashamed of them, they will still be there. The booklet Emotions and Cancer may also help.

You might find the Coping with the emotional effects of cancer page helpful.

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Are there any tips about talking to the person I am caring for?

Many carers say they feel lost and unable to talk to the person they care for. They fear they might say the wrong thing, or not know what to say or how to respond. You may feel you have to be supportive and strong for the person with cancer, and worry you might break down. Don’t be afraid to show your true feelings, it is a difficult time and it is natural to release genuine emotion. It can be difficult to see changes in someone you know well. Value your relationship and treat the person who is ill as you always have, with warmth and concern. The booklet Caring for someone with cancer  provides information about what a person with cancer may be going through. It also offers ideas about what you might say and do.

Just be yourself, you don’t have to talk, just listen.

The Breast Cancer Network have an valuable online resource Helping a friend or colleague with breast cancerThe resource provides some practical ways you can assist a friend with cancer. It also suggests things that won’t help. 

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Can I talk to someone else who is caring for their loved one with a cancer diagnosis?

There are a range of support services that enable you to talk to someone else. To find out what might best suit your needs you might like to speak to a cancer nurse on Cancer Council 13 11 20 or email a query via the Cancer Council 13 11 20 email page.

Cancer Connect is a one on one telephone peer support program that enables you to speak with a specially trained volunteer who has cared for a relative undergoing cancer treatment.

Cancer support groups, some of which are run by people affected by cancer, can provide support and information that is helpful to carers as well as patients. Information about groups that exist in WA is available. Contact Cancer Council 13 11 20.

There is a Carer Telephone Support Group run by Cancer Council NSW that allows you to connect with other people caring for a family member, friend or loved one with a cancer diagnosis. This group provides the opportunity and space to share and discuss what it is like to be caring for someone with cancer.

There is an online forum where you can talk with someone who is caring for someone with cancer. You may like to share your own thoughts on what is going on for you with others in a similar situation. The Cancer Council Online Community website provides this opportunity.

If I am caring for someone with advanced cancer where can I get information to help me?

You may find the information on the Coping with advanced cancer page helpful.

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If I am caring for someone with terminal cancer where can I get information to help me?

You might find the information about palliative care helpful and answers to some of the frequently asked questions and a range of recommended resources on our Palliative Care page.

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Can I get some information to assist me with legal and financial matters?

You may find the information on our Coping with the practical issues after a cancer diagnosis page helpful.

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How can I look after myself?

In a caring role it is also very important to look after yourself. When you attend to your own wellbeing you boost your quality of life. In turn, your wellbeing ensures you have the energy and capacity to face any challenges coming your way. This means you can provide more effective support to the people around you. Don’t feel guilty about taking some time out. If you need respite you can call the Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre, 1800 052 222 during business hours or 1800 059 059 for emergency respite support outside standard business hours.

The Carers WA website also provides comprehensive information about caring for yourself.

You may also find that some of the complementary therapies offered by the Cancer Council or SolarisCare are beneficial for you. 

There are many booklets and resources with information about cancer and these are available to download from this website or you may like to phone Cancer Council 13 11 20 to request a copy be sent to you.

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