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Cancer carers often young

Friday 27 March, 2009

Young adults with a mother, father, friend or relative dying of cancer often become a carer and feel isolated and alone and don't know where to turn.

The Cancer Council Victoria is focusing on the issues and difficulties, which affect carers both young and old, 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, especially of a young age, desperately needed help and support when caring for someone with cancer and felt let down by the system.

Examples include Tom who at 18 was told his father would be dead in three months and then had to be with his father, his mother and three siblings through the experience and felt he had to care for everyone.

Or Melissa who had fallen out with her father but when told he was dying, took it upon herself to try and help him.

"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 and not always because of a strong love between the carer and care recipient," 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.

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

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

  • Identification & recognition
  • Financial implications: employment, career and 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 and going through the experience feeling isolated and socially alienated," 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.

"Young people as carers' 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 young and old carers and it had seen a marked increase in young people using the service.

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