Caring for someone

Wednesday 30 November, 2011

On this page: Indigenous carers ι How many carers are there? ι Reviewers


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.

If you're reading this for someone who doesn't understand English, tell them they can call Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20 for services in different languages.

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. 

Indigenous carers

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.

Cancer Council has resources for people in Aboriginal communities who are affected by cancer. The booklet, Aboriginal Cancer Journeys, and eight fact sheets are available at www.cancercouncil.com.au.

How many carers are there?

According to Carers Australia, there are more than 2.5 million unpaid family carers in Australia. More than 770,000 of these people are primary carers, meaning they provide the most care for the person they are looking after. The average carer spends about 40 hours per week providing care. Women are slightly more likely to be carers than men. 


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.

Updated: 30 Nov, 2011