Family and Carer Support

This page is for anyone who is providing care for a partner, relative or friend living with cancer. You may find other pages and resources on this website useful too.

Caring duties may vary but often include personal care, giving medication, helping with practical demands such as housework or transport and offering emotional support. Some people have more than one carer and if you are not the main carer, this information will still be useful.

Being a carer can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. It can strengthen relationships between you, your loved ones, and healthcare professionals. However, these relationships may come under strain due to difficulties you may encounter including:

  • Becoming physically and mentally exhausted
  • Anxiety and stress within family relationships and friendships
  • Limitations on employment and career
  • Financial difficulties
  • Difficult feelings, such as isolation, helplessness, sadness, anger, frustration and guilt.

If you are caring for somebody who is currently under the medical team at John Eastwood Hospice, you can ask a member of the team for further information/advice about family/carer support that they offer.

Understanding your emotions

As a carer or family member, you may become so dedicated to the person living with cancer that you lose track of how you are feeling. It is important to be aware of your feelings. We have provided some common emotional reactions that you may experience.

Remember, these are normal emotional responses

Worry It is natural to worry about somebody when they have been diagnosed with cancer. Sometimes, the uncertainty of “not knowing” can feel uneasy. Worrying is a normal coping strategy which can be helpful for taking action (e.g., seeking further information). However, worrying can become unhelpful if you are preoccupied with it. Feeling worried may stop you from engaging in day-to-day tasks and pleasurable activities. It is important to manage your worries especially if they are preventing you from living your life according to your values. You might find some relaxation exercises useful (click here) or try bringing your attention to the here-and-now by doing some mindfulness exercises (click here).
Sadness Looking after somebody with cancer can be difficult and make you feel low. The person that you care for doesn’t mean to make you feel sad. However, you may fall into a vicious cycle where your low mood is stopping you from engaging in activities that you used to enjoy (e.g., socialising with your friends). You may also feel that you have to put on a “brave face” infront of the person with cancer - this is not always easy and can make you feel worse. If you find yourself frequently feeling sad, you can seek further information for ways to improve your mood here. Alternatively, you can find details for carers support here.
Guilt You may feel guilty for arguing with the person you are caring for, having negative thoughts about them or spending time with others. You may also feel like you should be doing more for them. These are all common emotional reactions. Talking about your feelings of guilt with somebody may help you to accept these feelings. Likewise, having time to yourself may help you to look after your loved one better.
Isolation Spending most of your time with the person you are caring for may lead you to feel isolated. You could share your worries with your loved ones if you felt comfortable to do this. Alternatively, you could contact a carers support service and speak to a professional. Click here to visit our list of useful contacts.  
Anger/frustration You may feel angry when somebody close to you has been diagnosed with cancer. The person you care for doesn’t mean to make you feel angry. It might be that you feel worried or hopeless and express this as anger. Sometimes you might aim your anger unnecessarily towards your family, healthcare professionals or even the person with cancer. The smallest things may cause your stress bottle to overflow (click here to read more about the ‘stress bottle’ or here for ‘feeling stressed’). It is important to express your feelings in positive ways e.g. writing them down, engaging in a physical activity or listening to some relaxation clips (click here. You may also find it helpful to talk to someone e.g. a friend or Macmillan staff member (click here for the Macmillan Support Line number).