The stress of caring for someone with cancer can affect your health, so it’s important to look after yourself too.

Looking after yourself

Being a caregiver can be hard, both physically and emotionally. It’s normal to feel satisfied some days and frustrated, angry or resentful on others. Caregivers can also feel lonely and isolated.

The stress of caring for someone with cancer can affect your health, so it’s important to look after yourself too.
Eat regularly and try to eat three meals during the day, including vegetables, fruit, lean proteins and wholegrains Try to get enough sleep. If you take any regular medicines, remember to take them, and see your doctor if you feel unwell. If there are activities you usually do without the person you are caring for, try to keep this up. Even if it means organising someone else to stay with them while you are out.
Ask for help from family and friends. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Make time to relax. Go for a walk, or make a cup of tea and sit outside. Try to keep doing the things you enjoy, like playing a sport or going to your club or a local group. Talk to others about how you’re feeling. You may want to talk to your family and friends or a health professional, such as your doctor or a counsellor.

Create your own sanctuary

Supporting someone with cancer can feel draining at times. Make sure you have support for yourself. Find a place or activity that is not related to your role as a caregiver, so that you have a sanctuary to go to for a set period of time every day. This might be something like going to the gym or swimming pool every day or gardening or perhaps doing a course – just for you. Learning and practising relaxation or meditation for a short time each day may be helpful too.

Home help and financial support

There are many services that can help caregivers who are looking after someone with cancer at home like home help, Meals on Wheels or nurse home visits. 

You may also be able to get a carer’s payment or allowance from Centrelink.
Ask your GP or a social worker at the hospital about other support for caregivers.

What if I’m not coping

Many people with cancer experience anxiety or depression, and many caregivers do too.
It’s important to know the signs that you’re not coping and talk to someone who can help. These include:

  • feeling exhausted and overwhelmed all the time

  • feeling sad (or angry) all the time

  • gaining or losing a lot of weight

  • trouble sleeping

  • drinking a lot of alcohol or using drugs.

Peer support is a good way to meet other caregivers and share ways of coping. Many cancer support groups and education programs are open to caregivers as well.

Talk to your GP or ask a nurse or social worker to recommend a health professional who can help you (counsellor or psychologist) or a cancer support group in your local area.

Getting back to normal life

Caring for someone with cancer can be tiring and isolating. If someone who you have cared for dies, it can be hard to go back to work or activities you did before. Be patient with yourself, and ask someone you feel close to and trust to support you when doing these activities again for the first time.

The Australian Government provides payments, counselling and financial services to help people adjust to life after someone close to them has died. Call Centrelink on 13 27 17 or contact your local Centrelink office to find out if you are eligible for bereavement (grief) payment or allowance.

Information about support (practical, emotional, peer and financial) for carers:

Carers Australia hotline: 1800 242 636
www.carersaustralia.com.au

Cancer Council: 13 11 20

Centrelink (carer payments and allowances): 13 27 17, visit local office for an interview, or visit www.humanservices.gov.au and see page for Carers Head and Neck Cancer Alliance Support Community

For patients, carers, families, friends
www.inspire.com/groups/head-and-neck-cancer-alliance

NSW Meals on Wheels: www.nswmealsonwheels.org.au

Home Help: www.myagedcare.gov.au/help-home