Looking after someone close to them can bring a carer much pride and satisfaction. It may mean they get to spend more quality time with you at home and this can strengthen your relationship.

The caring role can take a mental toll. They may feel anxious, sad, depressed or even resentful about your illness and the care you need. These feelings in caregivers may also increase as the health of the person they are caring for worsens.

Carers may also experience degrees of grief and the demands on their time may leave them feeling isolated and lonely. Left untreated, these states of mind can affect their long-term health and it can take years for them to recover.

What may help

Take breaks

Carers can try to schedule time each week to do things they enjoy – walking, gardening, having coffee with a friend or spending time with their family.

Family or friends may be able to take over some duties while your carer takes a break. If not, formal respite care may be an option.

Q&A

Q: How can I get my carer to take a much-needed break?

A: They may feel guilty about taking a break, so maybe you need to step in and arrange it (or get a social worker to help you). How about pointing out to them that the break, even a short one, will probably be as good for you as it is for them.
(Source: Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing)

Talk to your Doctor

If your carer seems anxious or sad, suggest that their doctor may be able to prescribe some medications that can help them feel better, or refer them to a psychologist or counsellor.

Emotional support

A carer may find it helpful to talk to someone else about how they are feeling, perhaps someone who is going through the same thing. Even if they don’t feel comfortable talking with you about things (for fear of worrying you, for instance), they may be willing to talk to trusted friends or family members. At the very least, it may help those close to them understand their situation.

If they don’t have that sort of support, or need more than family and friends can provide, there are trained counsellors through the Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20 . These counsellors, or even the carer’s own doctor, may also direct them towards local support groups. Carers Australia Freecall 1800 242 636 has officers who, among other services can provide emotional support, information and referrals to counsellors for people who are caring for someone with advanced cancer.

Tips

A sense of humour is always a good thing for a caregiver. Even though your illness is serious, sometimes the best way to deal with embarrassment and other awkward moments is to have a laugh.

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