A good social support network usually includes family, friends, community members and others who provide physical, practical and emotional help.
Just as individuals need different levels of social support, people around them are likely to react to those needs in different ways. Some people have family and friends who rally around and cannot do enough for them. Others find the people they most depend on withdraw because it is all too distressing for them, or they do not know how to help.
People with advanced cancer and their caregivers, who feel that they have a good support network tend to cope better with their diagnosis and generally have a better quality of life than those who do not have such back-up.
A variety of groups and services offer support for people with advanced cancer, their caregivers, family and friends. These include face-to-face groups, or email and telephone contact, especially for people who live in rural areas or are less mobile.
You may start with the Cancer Council’s services phone 13 11 20, enquire about the Cancer Connect program, state-based and cancer-specific support groups and its Helpline. Contact your hospital or talk to your cancer nurse or a social worker to get more information about other local support groups.
Carers Australia, has information on carer support groups around Australia. Contact Freecall 1800 242 636 for information, or for over-the-phone counselling and support.
Try not to let your pride or reluctance to “impose” stop you from accepting help. Most offers of assistance, especially from those close to you, are genuine. In many cases, this is their way of letting you know you are not alone.
Family or friends may be able to pick up medications, cook or simply sit with you. Hopefully, they appreciate your honesty when you really want to be alone or want to do something for yourself. But, for the most part, their help may in fact be helpful to all of you, including them.
If you want to help someone who may be reluctant to accept it, specific offers ("Tell me what I need to pick up from the chemist") are often more effective than "open" offers ("What can I do to help?").
Life, Hope & Reality was developed and written by Afaf Girgis, Claire Johnson, and Sylvie Lambert with funding from the NHMRC and Cancer Council NSW.Last updated 30 August 2015