How you might feel

Looking after someone can be rewarding, but also very demanding. At times you may feel:

  • frightened
  • sad
  • angry
  • guilty
  • lonely.

The person you are caring for may also have these feelings.

As a carer, you might feel you have to stay positive for the person you look after. But no one can be positive all the time. It can be a positive thing to say you are feeling tired, worried, depressed, or angry. Then you can talk about it and get support to help you cope.

If you have a carer’s assessment, it is good to share your feelings. Your assessor can talk to you about your emotions and how to look after yourself. They will have information about support services and therapies. There are often local support groups for carers. They may be able to help with transport and replacement care (respite) for the person you look after, so you can go to the group.

Feelings can be stronger at times of change. This might be when the person you look after is unwell or needs more help.

Things can change for you too. You may start, or go back to, work or education. There might be a change in your family situation or finances. You may feel unwell or need hospital treatment. Or you may feel you cannot keep up the level of care you have been giving.

It is important that you tell others about how you are feeling. People have different support networks. You may want to talk to:

  • a partner
  • family
  • friends
  • health or social care professionals
  • a support group.


You may feel frightened or worried about the future. You may hide your feelings to avoid upsetting the person you look after. You might also feel you have lost control over your own life.

Talking about your fears and worries can help. You could write them down and talk about them with the cancer doctor, GP, district nurse or specialist nurse. Having more information about the cancer, and what to expect, may help you feel less worried and more in control.


You are likely to have times when you feel low. This could be when you are very tired or the person you are caring for is unwell. These low moods may not last long. Most people find they have good and bad days.

Caring may sometimes be so demanding that you become depressed. Symptoms of depression can include:

  • feeling sad or numb for weeks or more
  • struggling to enjoy things that you usually would
  • sleeping problems and changes in eating habits
  • having no motivation, difficulty concentrating or finding it hard to make decisions.

If you think you may be depressed, talk to your GP. There is support and effective treatments that can help you.

Anger and resentment

It is normal to feel angry if someone close to you has cancer. You may also feel angry because you do not have time to do things you enjoy. You may feel your life has been put on hold. Sometimes you may feel resentful that others cannot give you the help or support you need.

The person you look after may not appear to appreciate what you do. Or they might be angry and upset with the situation, and direct these feelings towards you. If this happens, talking about it openly when you are both less tired may help to stop things getting worse.

It is important to understand that feeling angry is normal. There are some things you can do to help deal with your anger:

  • Take some deep breaths, and think about what has caused it.
  • Go for a brisk walk – exercise can help with anger.
  • Talk about it with a family member, friend, or another carer.
  • Think about what happened and how it could have been different.
  • Write about your anger – this can help release it.

Loneliness or isolation

It is not unusual to feel lonely or isolated when you are caring for someone. You may feel you do not have enough time to see friends, or friends may think you are too busy to meet. Try to see other people, even if it is just once or twice a week. Accept offers of help to give yourself breaks. Keeping in touch with friends through regular phone calls or social media can help.

If you do not have anyone to talk to, contact a local or online support group, or visit our Online Community's Carers forum.


You may feel guilty because you would like to have a break from caring. You may feel that you are not a good enough carer. When people feel guilty, they try to hide their feelings and worries more. This can make it difficult for people to understand what you are going through. So it is important to talk to people close to you about how you feel.

The person you are caring for may also feel guilty about how their illness is affecting you and others.

Your relationship with the person you are caring for

Becoming a carer can affect your relationship with the person you look after. It may make the relationship stronger. You may also feel it changes your relationship. For example, if you are looking after a parent, you may feel your roles have been reversed. You may miss the relationship you had before. But it can also give you a chance to become closer to the person.

If your relationship with the person you are caring for was difficult before, it may become worse. Getting help and having time to yourself can make this easier. It is normal for both of you to have difficult feelings.

You may not feel sure about how to comfort the person you are caring for. Listening to them can be enough. You do not need to have all the answers.

All relationships are different. But these tips might help your relationship with the person you are caring for:

  • Give yourselves time to get used to the change in your roles and talk about the changes.
  • Try to be honest with each other about your feelings. Listen to each other’s needs and find ways to meet them.
  • Set boundaries to help each of you keep your independence and feel in control.
  • Make sure the person you are caring for knows they are still in control. It is important they know they always have a choice in decisions that affect them.
  • Keep to daily routines to give you both a sense of structure.
  • Do not be afraid to be yourself, or to use laughter and humour in the right situations. Try to do things together that are fun. Laughing together can make you both feel less stressed.

If you are caring for a partner

Caring for your partner can affect your relationship. For example, you might have to take on a different role. Sometimes your future plans may change.

Your relationships with family

If you are the main carer for someone with cancer, talking to other family members may help you cope. It may also bring you closer. But sometimes family relationships change. Some family members may want to talk about their feelings and what is happening. Others may not. They might find this difficult, even when decisions need to be made. If things are already difficult, they might get worse because of the stress.

If there are problems, speak to a health professional or social worker who is involved.

If you are the main carer, other family members may ask you for updates on how the person is. This can be stressful for you. It can be hard to deal with how they react. Try to ask other family members to share updates to the wider family by email or text.

If there are children or teenagers in the family, it may be the first time they have dealt with a serious illness. We have more information about talking to them.

Your relationship with a partner

Your partner can be an important source of support for you. Your caring role may affect your relationship with your partner:

  • You may have less time to spend together.
  • Your sex life may be affected because you are both tired.
  • Your finances may be affected, and this can cause worry.

Try to talk honestly with your partner about any worries you have. If you are worried about your relationship and would like advice or information, the charity Relate can help. It offers counselling services in the UK for every type of relationship.

If money is a worry, our financial specialists can help.

Related pages

Your relationships with friends

Friends may be able to give you practical and emotional support. But you may see them less often because of your caring commitments. They may not contact you as much because they are worried about what to say.

Try talking to them honestly about being a carer. This can help them understand your situation and how you feel. Using social media is also a good way of talking to friends.

About our information

This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer.

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our cancer and emotions information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Supporting adult carers. NICE guideline [NG150]. Published 22 January 2020. Available from [accessed Jan 2023].


    Zeng Q, Ling D, Chen W, et al. Family Caregivers’ Experiences of Caring for Patients with Head and Neck Cancer. A systematic Review and Metasynthesis of Qualitative Studies. Cancer Nursing. 2023; 46,14-28. Available from [accessed Jan 2023].

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 December 2023
Next review: 01 December 2026
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Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

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