Caring if the illness gets worse

If cancer gets worse, your partner, relative or friend may need special care that can no longer be given at home. The GP or social services can help you and your loved one to find new care arrangements. This does not mean you’ve failed as a carer or let them down. As their illness develops their needs may change and a different type of care may make them feel more secure.

Such changes can affect you emotionally and have an impact on your ability to work. Let your employer know about your situation so that they can support you.

If the person you’ve cared for dies, you may go through a range of emotions. Coping with bereavement is a long and complex process. If you need support to cope with your feelings, it could be helpful to contact organisations that offer bereavement counseling.

You may need time off before going back to work. Contact your employer to let them know how you’re coping. You may be able to make arrangements to ease your return to work.

Caring for someone when the illness gets worse

If your partner, relative or friend’s cancer gets worse, you may find that it’s no longer realistic for you to continue to look after them at home.

Try not to feel guilty or that you have failed as a carer. Remember that as their illness develops, their needs may change. A different type of care may make them feel more secure and safe.

The demands of caring can have an effect on you, too. You may both feel that it’s time to make other arrangements. It can help to talk about the situation and consider possible alternative arrangements that you would both feel happy about. The GP or community nursing or social service staff can give you advice. You should ask social services for a reassessment of your needs as a carer, as well as those of the person you are caring for.

This can be a difficult time and will continue to affect how you work. If you’re no longer physically caring for your relative or friend, you may have more time to work, but feel emotionally less able. It’s important to discuss the change in circumstances with your employer so that they can continue to support you.

Our section on caring for someone with advanced cancer has advice and information that you may find helpful.


If someone close to you, and who you’ve cared for in the last stages of their life, dies, you’ll probably experience a range of emotions. You may feel numb and shocked, however much you thought you had prepared for this moment. You may be deeply upset, and at the same time relieved that you can now make plans for your future.

You may also feel guilty that you are thinking of yourself at this time. These are all natural and normal emotions that you may feel long after the actual bereavement itself. Coping with bereavement is a long process. If you need help in coping with your feelings at this time, some organisations offer bereavement counselling. Ask your GP surgery or local hospice or you can search for these organisations on our website.

Returning to work

Everyone copes with bereavement in their own way. The time to return to work will vary for each person. Some people feel able to carry on working and need to take very little time off, while others need longer.

Let your employer know how you’re coping and discuss with them the best way for you to return to work. You may find it easier to work from home for a time, or to work part-time for a while. It can also be helpful to talk to your employer about telling your colleagues, and about whether you’re happy for them to contact you while you’re off.

There are many organisations that can support you at this time.

Back to If you're a carer

Being a carer

As more and more people are living with cancer, a greater number of people are taking on caring responsibilities.

Making decisions about care

If you’re a carer, you may sometimes find it difficult to know how much support you should and can provide.

Making decisions about work

If you’re a carer you may want to stop working temporarily or completely. It’s important to consider the implications of your decision.

Support for you

Caring for someone with cancer can be challenging and tiring. Help is available to support carers and enable them to look after their loved one.

Your rights at work

It's important to be aware of your legal rights as a carer. Your human resources department may be able to help you.