Emotional effects of caring

If you are caring for someone, you may be under a lot of stress. It’s normal to have many different feelings, such as resentment or anger. Try talking to each other when you are both feeling calm and won’t be disturbed. Try to understand the way the other person is feeling. This may help prevent arguments building up in the future.

Caring for someone may also cause loneliness and isolation. If you are caring for someone full-time, you may not have time to go out and socialise. But it’s important to try and see other people, even if it’s just once a week.

It’s important to try and talk about your feelings. People have different support networks. Whether yours is your family, your partner, a friend or a social group, try to talk to someone about how you are feeling. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to, you could try contacting a local or online support group. Sharing your experiences with other people in a similar situation can really help you feel less alone.

Your feelings

Looking after someone you care about can cause many different feelings and emotions. Some people find that coming to terms with cancer brings them closer together. Others may find it very difficult. Everyone’s experiences are different, but we have included some feelings and emotions that most carers say they have felt at some point.

People have different support networks. Whether yours is your family, your partner, a friend or a social group, try to talk to someone about how you are feeling. It’s important to look after yourself.


Fear

Cancer can be very frightening. You may feel that you don’t know enough about it and that you have no control over what is happening or what is going to happen. The person you are caring for is probably afraid too. You may both be hiding what you really feel to avoid upsetting each other.

It can help to find someone to talk to about your fears and worries. Just talking about them might be enough. Some people find it helpful to write down their worries and talk them through with the doctor or specialist nurse. This may help you talk to the person you care for about their fears.

When something is outside your grasp and you so desperately want to control it, it’s really difficult. It’s frightening. It’s scary.

Jayne, who cared for her husband Paul


Depression

You are bound to have times when you feel low, usually when you are very tired or anxious. Or when the person you are caring for is unhappy or needs a lot of help. These low times don’t usually last long and you will start to cope with your normal routine again within a few days.

If you find that you have been feeling low or tearful and it’s not improving, you could be depressed. Some people may often feel desperate or panicky, or as though they cannot be helped.

Try to talk to your GP if you think you are depressed. This can be difficult, but your GP should be able to help. They may refer you to a counsellor or prescribe medicines.

It can be hard to admit to people that you are feeling depressed. They may not realise how much strain you are under. Talk to someone if you can, and ask them to help. They may be able to sit with the person you are caring for while you have some time off.

If the person you care for is very unwell, they may become preoccupied and have low moods. If you think that the person you care for is depressed, talk to a health or social care professional.

When I’m feeling low, I know it will eventually pass and I will be able to take control again, even if I don't know for how long.

Karen


Resentment

Most carers have times when they feel resentful. It’s natural to feel like this. You may not have much time for yourself to do things you enjoy. You may feel as though your own life has been put on hold.

The person you are caring for may sometimes have mood swings and seem withdrawn. They may have become more irritable since they became ill, especially if they are in pain. They may not always seem to appreciate what you are doing for them. Many people take their fear, anxiety or frustration out on the people around them. If this is happening, you may find it difficult to cope with.

Trying to talk about this may help – perhaps find a time when you both have a bit more energy and won’t be disturbed. Give yourselves a chance to try to understand how the other person feels. This can help prevent your feelings building into an argument. Or you may find it easier to talk about your feelings with someone outside the situation.


Anger

Many people say they feel bitter or angry if someone close to them has cancer. It may seem very unfair that illness has got in the way of any plans you both had.

You may have to cope with feelings of anger towards both the illness and the person you are caring for. You might find that you start to lose your temper with them, especially if they have become irritable or depressed.

Being angry with each other is normal and there is no reason to feel guilty about it. But it is important to find a way of dealing with it before it builds up too much.

Some people find that writing about their anger helps them release some of it. Or you might find it helpful to talk about it with a family member, a friend, or someone who has been through a similar experience. This could be someone from a local support group.

Be kind to yourself. The way you’re feeling is normal, we’ve all felt like that from time to time.

Caroline


Frustration

Caring for someone can be very frustrating. Being cared for can be frustrating too. Between you, you need to work out a way of getting along where you both feel that you have some control over your own lives.

As a carer, you need to make sure that you have time to yourself to do things you enjoy. The person you are caring for might like to have visitors and this can give you a break to go out or have a rest. It may also give others a chance to help and be involved.

If the person you are caring for is also frustrated, try to think of ways they can have some independence and freedom. If they are bedbound, you could make sure they have a phone, radio, TV, laptop or tablet nearby. Maybe they could help with some things around the home. Most importantly, make sure they are fully involved in decisions about their treatment and care.


Loneliness and isolation

If you are looking after someone full-time at home, you may not have much time to go out and socialise. If the person you are caring for is not feeling well and needs a lot of attention, it may feel easier to stay with them all the time.

You might start to think that you are the only one who can care for the person.

But it is very important to see other people, even if it is just once or twice a week. If you get used to not seeing other people, it can become more difficult to make contact. If you don’t accept offers of help or company, some people may think you don’t want to be contacted. They may think you are too busy looking after the person you care for. If you find you are losing touch with friends or family, it can help to try and have regular phone calls with them.

If you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to, you could try contacting a local or online support group. Sharing your experiences with other people in a similar situation can really help you feel less alone.

I knew my friends were there to support me, but I didn’t feel like there was anyone I could open up to. That’s when I started feeling a bit lonely.

Ben, who cared for his mum


Guilt

Most of us feel guilty about something. We all sometimes feel that we could have done more or that something we did was wrong. Sometimes these feelings can get out of control and you may forget about how much you have done to help. You may not feel good about yourself and start to believe that you can’t do anything right.

The person you are caring for may also feel guilty, perhaps about how much work and stress the illness is causing you and the rest of the family.

Try not to feel guilty for long. It can help to focus on the positive things you are doing to help the person you are looking after. Many people find sharing these feelings with someone can help them to see that feeling guilty is not helpful. You could try talking to people in a similar situation, such as other carers.


Being positive

You may feel like you should be positive for the sake of the person you look after. Some people may say you should keep being positive, to help you and the person through this difficult time. But it is natural to have times when you feel low. Being told to be positive when you feel low can be frustrating. Even if someone is just trying to help, it can feel like they are not accepting how you really feel.

People can be positive in different ways. What works for one person may not work for another. Being positive does not mean having to feel happy and cheerful all the time. If you are feeling tired, worried, depressed or angry, it can be positive to acknowledge this and talk about it with someone.

No one can be positive all the time. It is important not to feel like you must always stay on top of things.

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