This information is for people who are looking after someone with cancer. You may still be adjusting to the news that someone you know has cancer, and that you will be their carer. You may be wondering what carers do. It's natural to be worried about the impact being a carer will have on your life and how caring might affect your relationships.
You may be questioning how you will manage the emotional and physical needs of the person you are caring for. Perhaps you have been providing care for some time and need some reassurance.
This information aims to support you in your role as a carer. You may relate to some of the emotions and feelings described here, and you might learn practical tips on how to balance the demands of caring, family, work and your own needs.
Your role as a carer is valuable. Although caring for someone with cancer can be difficult and stressful at times, many carers have said they are better people for the experience of caring. Some people find that caring can be rewarding and life-changing.
A carer is someone who helps and supports a person through a disease or disability such as cancer. Carers can provide support in different ways: practical, physical, emotional and spiritual.
You may be a relative, friend or neighbour. Anyone can become a carer – it doesn't matter what your age, gender, sexuality, profession or cultural background is.
You may provide care for a short time or over months or years. Care may be needed for a few hours once a week or on a 24-hour basis. Sometimes a carer lives interstate or overseas and helps by coordinating care by phone, email or the internet.
You may not see yourself as a carer, rather someone simply taking care of a person who needs you. You may see becoming a carer as a natural extension of your relationship with the person with cancer.
Some people accept the change in the relationship while others may feel they had no choice or it was something they felt they ‘should' do.
Becoming a carer is probably a big change for you, and it may take some time to adjust to your new role. You may have to balance caring with conflicting demands such as work, family or study.
Thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are carers. Although their needs are similar to other carers, Indigenous carers may not have as much access to support services. Some carers fear and mistrust mainstream services.
This information should be helpful. Carers Australia also has specific resources for Aboriginal carers. Carers NSW's Looking After Ourselves DVD discusses how Indigenous carers can take breaks and look after their own well-being. There is also a relaxation CD. For copies, call (02) 9280 4744.
Caring for someone with cancer can be challenging, but also very rewarding. It is natural to feel worried about being a carer. You may be unsure of your role and how to provide support. You may have concerns about the impact on your life, and how caring might affect your relationships. We have a team of highly experienced cancer nurses who can talk through any concerns you have, then help you work out what assistance you need, who can support you, and how to ask for help. Simply call 13 11 20 to speak to one of the nurses or you can mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also have a kit of resources specially chosen by the nurses to help support you as a carer. Call 13 11 20 to order your free kit.
Information reviewed by: Jane Ussher, School of Psychology, University of Western Sydney, NSW; Piero Bassu, Consumer, NSW; Lindy Cohn, Cancer Information Consultant, Cancer Council NSW Helpline; Dr Mandy Goldman, Cancer Counsellor, Private Practice; Christine Harris, Consumer; Joanna Jarrald, Assistant Project Coordinator, Cancer Council NSW; and Colleen Sheen, Executive Manager, Policy, Strategy and Communication Unit, Carers NSW.