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Carers who get cancer overwhelmed

Thursday 30 April, 2009

People caring for someone with a disability or chronic illness who get cancer can become overwhelmed with their situation.

Like 67 year-old Redmond recently diagnosed with advanced throat cancer who is the full time carer of his frail wife with dementia.

And Cindy with advanced breast cancer who cares for her adult daughter with an intellectual and physical disability.

Cancer Council Victoria will focus on the issues and difficulties affecting carers with cancer at an annual carers' seminar in Melbourne on May 23.

The seminar will release the results of the Inaugural Carers' Seminar held last year which identified many situations where people need help, especially people in carer roles who get cancer.

"Our Cancer Council Helpline, 13 11 20, takes more than 4, 600 calls a year from people in carer roles; while many carers are in a loving relationship, we also acknowledge that many carer situations can be quite complex," Trish Waters, Cancer Services Coordinator said.

"In some cases, becoming a carer may be more through circumstances and relationship, very different to paid workers who are trained and have a choice to work in that field and it becomes extremely difficult when the carer gets cancer too. 

"It is also really difficult for people who find themselves in this situation as they want to do the right thing but often don't know where to turn as they too need help," she said.

Deputy Director of the Cancer Information and Support Service, Dr Amanda Hordern, said key issues identified include.

  • Identification & recognition of being a carer
  • Financial implications: employment, career & studies
  • Limited services which can be very aged care specific
  • Lack of information which is 'age' relevant

"People often think of carers as those that are paid by the health system to do the job but the reality is there are thousands of people in regional Victoria and throughout the state who are unpaid carers. Some are cancer patients who experience feelings of isolation and social alienation," she said.

Dr Hordern said carer information and support needs were rarely met as the emphasis and focus within health care settings remained at the level of those people newly diagnosed with cancer.

"People as carers' who get cancer are particularly vulnerable and face many difficulties which can have life long implications," she said.

Dr Hordern said Cancer Council Information and Support was the only service in the State to offer support to carers and it had seen an increase in people using the service.