If you are a carer with cancer

Many older people also look after someone who is disabled or ill. It can feel overwhelming if you are a carer and have cancer. You may need to think about whether you can continue caring for someone and have treatment. Your doctor will tell you how long cancer treatment might take and any possible side effects. The effects on your role as a carer might be temporary or long term.

If might help to think about the following:

  • who to involve in your decisions
  • the needs of the person you care for
  • getting a carer’s assessment through a social worker
  • telling your cancer team that you are a carer
  • taking time to rest
  • telling the person you care for about the cancer.

It might be helpful for you to speak to other people in a similar situation. Call us on 0808 808 00 00 to find out about support groups in your area.

If you are a carer with cancer

Many older people are looking after a partner, relative or friend who is disabled or ill. If you are a carer and also have cancer, you may feel overwhelmed. You will need time to think about whether you can care for someone while you are ill and possibly having treatment.

Having cancer treatment could affect your ability to care for someone else. Your doctor will tell you when your treatment can start and how long it might take. They will also talk to you about any possible side effects. This information can help you decide whether you can continue being a carer, or whether you will need to make other arrangements. The effect on your role as a carer might be temporary or longer-term.


Things to think about

Consider who to involve in your decisions

Decide whether you can involve the person you care for in any decisions. For example, you could ask them who they would like to care for them if you have to go into hospital. Or you could ask if they would be happy to spend a short time in a care home. If the person you care for is unable to fully understand your illness, talk things through with a family member or close friend. This may happen if the person you look after has dementia or learning difficulties. You can also call 0808 808 00 00 and talk to our cancer support specialists.

Think about the needs of the person you care for

Could they manage at home for a short time without your support? How could other people help? There are services that can offer temporary help, such as respite care. Financial help might also be available. Our cancer support specialists can tell you more.

Arrange a carer’s assessment

As a carer, you are entitled to a carer’s assessment. A social worker will talk to you to see what help you and the person you care for might need. For example, you may need financial help to pay for care services or extra help at home.

During the assessment, you can discuss how to balance caring with looking after your own health. If the person you care for does not want to have an assessment, you are still entitled to a carer’s assessment of your own needs. Your GP or cancer nurse can refer you for an assessment. Or for more information, you can contact:

  • your local council (if you live in England, Scotland or Wales)
  • your local Health and Social Care Trust (if you live in Northern Ireland).

Talk to your cancer team

Tell your cancer doctor or nurse that you are a carer when you talk about your treatment options. Ask how soon you might be able to go back to your caring role.

When you have made plans, talk again to your cancer team and agree a date for your treatment to start.

Take time to rest

Try to have a few restful days before your operation or the start of treatment, when you don’t have to do your caring duties. This will give you the chance to build up your strength and catch up on rest.

Tell the person you care for

If the person you care for has not been involved in your plans, you will need to decide when to tell them about the changes. This can be a difficult conversation. Don’t feel you are to blame, and try not to feel guilty. Your cancer treatment may be your priority for a while, and you will need to concentrate on getting well again.

We have more information and practical tips for carers.


Support for each other

No one knows more about the impact cancer has on a person’s life than people who have been affected by cancer themselves.

Call us on 0808 808 00 00 to find out about support groups near you. These are groups of people affected by cancer who meet in your area to support each other.

You can also share your experiences, ask questions and get support from others on our Online Community.

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