Emotional support for carers

Talking about cancer

Many people find it difficult to talk to a person who has cancer.  When you first learn that someone close to you has cancer, you may feel you will say the wrong thing or will not be able to talk to the person the way you used to.

Just hearing the word cancer can be frightening. Although many people can be cured and the chances of being cured are getting better all the time, being told that someone you care about has cancer is still often a big shock.

You may want to help but you do not know how. You may not know what to say or what you can do to help. Many people feel like this, even if they are used to dealing with difficult issues in their work lives or in other circumstances. It is very different when it is a personal situation.

You may feel stuck and helpless when a relative or friend receives a cancer diagnosis. You may think that there are things you should say or do that will automatically make things easier for the person with cancer.

If you want to help someone who is facing a difficult time, just wanting to help and offering to be there for that person is what matters most.

Even listening can help build a relationship between you both that allows you to be even more supportive and to know what your relative or friend needs.  Visit the Macmillan Cancer Support website section on ‘Talking about cancer’

Balancing life and caring

Carers often juggle other demands such as family and a job with their caring role. When you are busy coping day to day and responding to others, it is easy to forget your own life, which can have significant consequences such as having to give up work or study.

Many carers say that having a life outside of caring helps them to feel more able to cope with the stresses and strains.  Working and other activities such as learning and leisure can seem like a welcome break from caring and can provide independence and social contact. For many carers, juggling work and care is a financial necessity.  At the same time caring may mean that it can be difficult to pursue what you want.

For more information on balancing life and caring please see the Carers UK leaflet. 

Caring for yourself

As a carer, it is important that you pay attention not only to the wellbeing of the person you care for but also to your own emotional health and wellbeing.

Being a carer can be rewarding but can also be emotionally and physically demanding, for example, you may be finding it difficult to cope with the level of care you are providing and do not know where to turn – perhaps feeling resentful that you have little time to yourself. Or, you may be facing the fact that you have suddenly become a carer after the illness of your partner – perhaps feeling anxious and depressed about these changes in your life.

It is important to acknowledge these feelings – they are normal. Sharing these feelings can also help. This could be with a friend or family member or another carer, carer support worker, GP or counsellor.  Support groups and carers events can be beneficial for discussing your worries or fears or sharing practical advice with other carers in similar roles.

Last updated July 2018.