Shopping, housework, cooking, personal care, medicating, lifting, transporting, calling health care workers, making medical appointments, offering a shoulder to cry on and more, could be in the job description of someone caring for a person with advanced cancer.

It is little wonder then that many caregivers say they have too much on their plate and their own health suffers as a result. They may be tired and exhausted, have back, neck and shoulder problems, struggle with weight and fitness or be sick from stress. To top it off, they may not be getting enough sleep.

What may help

Looking after themselves

This is easier said than done when someone else is depending on them. Eating regular, balanced meals – even if you do not have the appetite to eat with them – is the key to keeping up their energy and strength.

Tips

You may be able to draw on services such as Meals on Wheels, to free up time for a carer whose duties include cooking.

Both you and your caregiver may be able to look at the list of things to be done and see where time may be freed up for the carer to perhaps get some exercise or sleep. Again, family or friends may be able to take over for a short period of time while your caregiver takes a mini-break.

Safety first

To maintain physical and emotional well being, your carer needs to be aware of safety and hygiene for their sake as well as for yours. Your doctor or hospital may be able to suggest an occupational therapist who can advise on suitable equipment, lifting techniques and other physical matters. A nurse will also be able to advise on hygiene practices.

Help with coping

The Commonwealth Carer Resource Centre can put caregivers in touch with services in their area that may be able to provide some assistance. Go to the Carers Australia website, or phone Freecall 1800 242 636 for state and territory carers associations.

Respite care

Respite care – provided by family, friends, neighbours or a formal service – allows caregivers to take a break.

A formal service may arrange for you to access a day care centre or admit you to a hospital or aged-care facility for a short time. Alternatively, a trained person may take over in your home. The relief care may be for a few hours or a few days, depending on your needs and those of your caregiver.

If your caregiver needs help organising respite care, talk to your doctor or health care team or contact Carer Gateway for information on respite services either via the website or call Carer Gateway 1800 422 737, or go to the Department of Health website.


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