Useful organisations and resources
Commonwealth Carer Respite and Carelink Centres – are a one-stop shop for accessing free, confidential, comprehensive information about services that can help with your care and assist you to live independently for as long as possible. Advisers can talk to you about equipment hire, nursing care, allied health services and programs such as Home and Community Care (HACC), which provides eligible people with short-term subsidised domestic help. Call 1800 052 222 or see www.commcarelink.health.gov.au.
Palliative Care Australia and its member organisation Palliative Care NSW – are peak organisations that promote palliative care information and standards. They have many useful resources, such as fact sheets, a specialist palliative care services directory, and detailed information on living with a life-limiting illness. See www.palliativecare.org.au and www.palliativecarensw.org.au.
Cancer Connections – is an online discussion forum run by Cancer Council for people with cancer, their families, carers and friends to connect with others. You can read and write comments or blogs, ask questions or join a live chat. Log on at www.cancerconnections.com.au.
For many people, an illness in the family can be a financial strain.
This may be caused by extra out-of-pocket costs or from loss of income. For example, if you have to stay at home round-the-clock, household bills will rise and you and your family may eat more pre-packaged meals to save time and energy. You may need to pay for childcare, transport, medication and equipment. These extra costs can cause you and your family a lot of stress.
Ask your social worker about any financial or practical assistance available to you and your carer, and apply for it as soon as possible. You may be eligible for assistance from the government, volunteer bodies, church groups or your local council.
Centrelink offers financial support for people with a long-term illness and for primary carers. For Disability, Sickness and Carer enquiries, ring Centrelink on 13 27 17, or visit the website at www.centrelink.gov.au. There are different benefits available:
- The Sickness Allowance is for people who are temporarily unable to work due to illness. The Disability Support Pension is for people who have not been able to work for two years or more. Both are income- and asset-tested.
- The Carer Payment is for carers who provide constant care in the home of the person you are caring for. This payment is income- and asset-tested.
- The Carer Allowance is for carers who provide a significant amount of assistance, either in their own home or in the home of the person with cancer. The allowance is not means tested; you may be eligible for it if you are working or receiving another type of pension.
Cancer Council assistance programs
Cancer Council runs three programs to help people with cancer who are facing financial challenges.
- A one-off payment is available to those in a financial crisis.
- A subsidised counselling scheme is for people who wish to talk to a counsellor or psychologist but can’t afford the full fee.
- Cancer Council may be able to organise free legal advice on issues such as will preparation, advance care directives and enduring powers of guardianship. Call the Helpline on 13 11 20 to see if you are eligible.
For further information about these programs, talk to your social worker or contact the Cancer Council Helpline. The booklet Understanding Your Rights also has information on financial issues.
If you have been referred to palliative care services because your cancer is advanced, you may wonder whether there are any complementary or alternative therapies that you should try in case they offer some chance of a cure. The decision to use complementary or alternative therapies is yours to make, but there is no scientific evidence to prove that such therapies will provide a cure.
However, some complementary therapies may help you enhance your general well-being and cope better with pain and other symptoms you have, such as insomnia, anxiety or digestive problems. There are many types of therapies, including acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy, relaxation, herbal medicine and nutrition. While some cancer treatment centres offer therapies as part of their services, you may have to go to a private practitioner. Self-help CDs or DVDs can also guide you through different techniques.
Let your doctor know about any complementary therapies you want to use. This is important, as some therapies may not be appropriate, depending on your conventional treatment and state of health. For example, some herbs or nutritional supplements may interact with your medication, resulting in harmful side effects.