Other care options

When you are looking after someone with cancer, you might need to take time off caring to give yourself a break. If you don’t, you could become stressed, unwell or very tired.

Care options for the person you look after include: 

  • respite care
  • residential and nursing home care
  • hospice or hospital care.

Respite care can provide short or longer breaks for carers. Someone could come and sit with the person you care for, for a few hours, or they might be able to visit a day centre. Your healthcare team could also arrange for them to have a short stay in a hospice, hospital or care home.

Residential care homes or care homes with nursing offer short-term or long-term accommodation. Your healthcare team will be able to give you more information about this.

If the person you are caring for becomes more unwell, they may want to move to a hospice or hospital palliative care unit. They can then get specialist care for any symptoms. Once the symptoms are under control, they may be able to come again. Care in a hospice is always free.

Other care options

When you’re caring for someone full-time or for long periods, you may need to have breaks otherwise you may start to feel stressed, resentful or even unwell.

A number of different care options are available to give you time off. To access some of them you will need to be referred to your social services or local authority for an assessment. They will assess the needs of the person you care for and your needs as a carer. They will then be able to tell you about the services they can provide to meet your needs. Local authorities charge for some care services and they will give you information about how the care will be funded.

Options include:

  • respite care
  • residential and nursing home care
  • hospice and hospital care.


Respite care

When you are looking after someone with cancer, you might need to take time off caring to give yourself a break. If you don’t, you could become stressed, unwell or very tired.

Respite care can provide short or longer breaks for carers. It could be for a few hours, an evening, or a week or two. There are different respite care options available, including sitting services, day centres or short stays in a hospice, hospital, or care home.

To get respite care, a social worker will need to assess your needs and the needs of the person you care for. This is called a community care assessment or needs assessment. They will then be able to tell you about the services that are available. Local authorities charge for some care services and they will give you information about how the care will be paid for.

Some charities, such as The Respite Association can also help with respite breaks for carers. This usually involves them arranging care packages for one or two weeks so that carers can get some rest.

Talking about your situation with someone else can be helpful. Ask your GP or specialist palliative care nurse about this. They may suggest some of the following care services.


Care and residential services

Residential care homes or care homes with nursing (nursing homes) can give different levels of care. This may be short or long-term. A social worker or member of the healthcare team can explain the difference. They can give you more information about:

  • local care homes
  • care that is given by the care homes
  • things to think about when choosing a care home
  • how to pay for the care.

They can also help to arrange this type of care, but it may take some time. Lists of local care homes are available from your local adult social care department. Care homes may not be available in all parts of the UK. There are also some charities who offer independent advice about finding and paying for care, for example Age UK.

The person you are caring for may be eligible for NHS continuing healthcare. Continuing healthcare offers free care (funded by the NHS) for people who need a lot of ongoing complex care. Ask a health or social care professional how you can apply for this. Before choosing a care home, you may want to find out more about it. The standard of care given by care homes and care agencies is checked across the UK by the Care Quality Commission. You can also ask your healthcare or social worker to give you this information. They may be able to help you get a report on the care home or agency so that you both feel confident about it.


Hospices

If the person you are caring for becomes more unwell as their illness develops, they may want to be looked after in a hospice or in a palliative care unit of the local hospital. You may have already discussed this with them and they may have written down their wishes. This is known as advance care planning.

People are often looked after in hospices at the very end of their life. But the GP, district nurse, specialist palliative care nurse or social worker may suggest a short stay in a hospice or hospital for other reasons. This may be because the person has symptoms that would be easier to control if they had specialist care. It may also be to give you a rest.

It can be difficult to accept that moving the person into care is the best thing to do, especially if you have been caring for them at home. You may both feel very upset that they might not be able to come home again. However, it is common for someone to go into a hospice for a short time to have their symptoms assessed and managed, and then go back home.

Care in a hospice is always free. They specialise in managing symptoms including pain. They are generally smaller and quieter than hospitals and work at a much gentler pace. Many have sitting rooms and space for family to stay overnight.

Sometimes there is a waiting list to go into a hospice, but this is usually short. If you are not sure about the idea of hospice care, you can ask to visit before making a decision. This gives you the chance to talk to staff about your worries.

Back to Looking after someone with advanced cancer

Managing symptoms

There are many ways you can help the person you’re looking after to manage symptoms or side effects while they are at home.

Support from voluntary organisations

Charities and voluntary organisations may be able to offer information, support groups, financial help, holiday schemes, transport or counselling.

Support from family and friends

Family and friends may be able to help you with practical and emotional support while you care for someone with advanced cancer.