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.

Working and caring for someone with advanced cancer

If the cancer gets worse, the needs of the person you care for are likely to change. You can get advice on this from the person’s GP, community or specialist nurse, or social services staff.

You may need more time off work, especially if you are looking after the person at home at the end of their life. You may have to make decisions about carrying on working.

Sometimes it may mean it is no longer realistic for you to keep looking after them at home. They may need a different type of care than you can provide for them.

The demands of caring can also have an effect on you. Talk to your GP or nurses to find out more about extra support and help. You can ask social services for a reassessment of your needs as a carer, as well as those of the person you are caring for.

Some people may decide they want to give up work for a period of time. Whatever you decide, this will be a difficult time for you and will affect how you work. Tell your manager about the change in your circumstances so that they can continue to support you.

We have more information and advice about caring for someone with advanced cancer that you may find helpful. You can also call us on 0808 808 00 00 for emotional and practical support.


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

If your caring role has changed or ended, you may want to go back to your previous work pattern. Whatever the reason for this, it often means a period of change. If you have been through a bereavement, you will still need support from your manager.

If you have been off work for a while, it may be helpful to have a gradual, flexible return. It is a good idea to have a catch-up meeting with your manager first and to have regular reviews.

Going back to full-time work, or to the responsibilities you had before, may take time to get used to. You may feel you have lost confidence or are out of date. Talk to your manager if you need training or support to help you. As a carer, you will have developed a lot of skills that employers value.

Getting back to your usual work life can also be a welcome change. It can give you routine and normality in life, and the chance to make plans for the future.

If you gave up work and are looking to get a new job, there is lots of advice on writing a CV, filling in application forms and performing well in job interviews. Your local library will have books on interview skills.

Your local Jobcentre or Jobs and Benefits Office should offer you job search support. There are different websites that give career advice. These include:

If you have gaps in your employment history because of your caring role, explain this on your CV or in person at an interview. Remember that you have developed many skills as a carer which may help you in your work.

Back to If you're a carer

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.

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.

Carers Week 8 - 14 June 2015

Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of carers in the UK and highlight the challenges they face.