Your relationships as a carer

Being a carer can affect your relationship with the person you care for and with others. We have tips to help you cope with this.

Your relationship with the person you are caring for

Becoming a carer can affect your relationship with the person you are caring for. It may make the relationship stronger. You may also feel it has changed the balance of your relationship.

For example, if you are looking after a parent, you might feel like 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 again.

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 you both 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. This gives 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 the balance of your relationship. For example, you might have to take on a different role from before. 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 find this hard, even when decisions need to be made. If things are already hard, they might get worse because of the stress.

If there are problems, ask a health professional or social worker who is involved for advice.

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. If you are caring for someone else, 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 tired.
  • Your finances may be affected, and this can cause worry. Our information about Carer’s Allowance can help.

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, Relate can help. It offers counselling services in the UK for every type of relationship.

Your relationships with friends

Friends may be able to give you practical and emotional support. But you may see them less often because you are a carer. 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.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 31 May 2019
Next review: 31 December 2021

This content is currently being reviewed. New information will be coming soon.

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