Caring for someone with cancer and dementia

Caring for someone with cancer and dementia can be rewarding, but it can be difficult too. It is important to look after yourself, as well as the person you care for.

Here are some tips for looking after yourself. Try to:

  • take breaks from caring if you can – you may be able to get regular help each week
  • eat healthily
  • be active and get fresh air each day
  • relax – relaxation CDs, DVDs or podcasts can help
  • get enough sleep.

It is normal to feel shocked, frightened or angry about the situation. You may find it helpful to talk to other people about how you feel. Some people find it easier to talk online. There are lots of online communities and groups where you can share your feelings with other carers. If you need more support, you can call our support line on 0808 808 00 00. Or you can call Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678.

Being a carer

Looking after someone with cancer and dementia can be both rewarding and challenging. Depending on the stage of their illness, they may need lots of help with everyday activities. This could include washing, dressing and meal preparation.

It can be hard to know if you are getting all the help that is available and if you are supporting the person you care for in the right way. This information explains some of the ways you can look after yourself, as well as supporting someone with cancer and dementia. We have more information on health and social care teams that can help you.

We also have more practical information and advice about looking after someone with cancer, which you may find useful.


Your feelings

Finding out you that the person you care for has both cancer and dementia can be very upsetting. It is common to feel shocked, frightened or angry about their situation.

Talking to other people about how you feel can be helpful. Some people find it hard to talk to close family and friends. You may like to talk to someone else. Ask your GP to refer you to a counsellor or support group. If you need more support, you can call our support line on 0808 808 00 00. Or you can call Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678.

You could also find online communities helpful. These are online groups where other carers share their feelings and experiences. There are online communities where you can talk to other people going through the same thing, such as:

We have more information on coping with emotions with someone close to you has cancer.


Looking after yourself

It is important to look after yourself as well as the person you care for. Here are some ways you can do that.


Take breaks

Having some time for yourself can help you to relax and feel able to cope better. This can help the person you are caring for too.

You may be able to arrange for someone to help regularly. This gives you some time to yourself, even if it is only for a few hours each week.

Make time for you

When you get time off, it is important to try to relax or enjoy yourself doing something different. You may feel tempted to spend time cleaning the house or doing the washing. But this is unlikely to help you feel better in the long term. The main thing is to do something that you want to do and switch off for a while.

Eat well

Try to eat healthily. If you can, make time to prepare and sit down for a cooked meal every day. If you don’t have time, perhaps you could ask a friend to help you.

Be active

Try to be active and get some fresh air every day. This could just mean a short walk. This will help keep you more mentally alert. It may also help you feel less tired and stressed.

Use relaxation techniques

Many people find relaxation techniques can help. You can use CDs, DVDs or podcasts, which may be available to buy at your local library.

Some people find having a massage very relaxing. It can be a great way for them to switch off for a short time. Your local carers’ centre or Macmillan information centre may offer free complementary therapies for carers.

Get enough sleep

Many people say that when they are caring for someone who is very ill, they find it difficult to relax at night. You may be thinking and worrying about them, which can keep you awake. Or the person you are caring for may be having a bad night, which can also keep you awake.

If you are having difficulty sleeping, there are things you can do that may help.


Support from other carers

Many people find it helpful to share their caring experience with someone in the same situation. If you feel this way, there are groups, organisations and healthcare professionals that can help you. These include:


Support groups led by carers

Other members may understand what you are going through. You could ask a member of your healthcare team about what support is available locally.

Online support groups or chat rooms

You can stay anonymous and chat instantly to other people in a similar situation. On our Online Community, you can chat to other people looking after someone with cancer.

Our cancer support specialists can help you find out what is available in your area. Call 0800 808 00 00 to speak with them. 

You can get also information and advice from Carers UK or Carers Trust.

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    Advanced cancer and dementia

    If it is not possible to control the cancer, the person you care for will be able to have treatments to manage any symptoms.