A changing role

As the disease progresses, the person’s needs will change and the demands on you as a carer are likely to increase. Some people live with advanced cancer for many years, so there may not be much difference in your caring role immediately. For others, the disease progresses quickly and your responsibilities may become more complex almost overnight.

The doctors may give a general indication of the person’s life expectancy. This is known as the prognosis and it is likely to sound a bit vague, such as months to many months, weeks to months, or days to weeks. The actual time could be shorter or longer, because each individual responds differently to care.

Not everyone wants to know their prognosis. If the person you are caring for prefers not to know, you may still want to get some indication to help you plan ahead. You can do so if the person gives their medical team permission to speak to you alone.


Listen to podcasts on Cancer Affects the Carer Too and How to Help Someone with Cancer


Avoiding carer burnout

Caring for someone with advanced cancer can be physically and emotionally demanding. Carers often put their own needs aside and focus all their energy on supporting the person with cancer. This can be hard to keep up over what may be months or years of caring.

Now more than ever, it is important to look after your own wellbeing (see the tips on Caring for yourself). Ask for and accept help and find ways to care for yourself. Even taking five minutes to do something you enjoy or to still your mind can mean you cope better.

Stress or distress that lasts a long time can lead to carer burnout. This can show in physical and emotional ways. If you are experiencing mood swings, irritability, sleep problems, changes in appetite, overwhelming fatigue or other signs of stress for more than two weeks, or if you are relying on alcohol or other drugs, talk to your GP or the social worker on the palliative care team.


This information was last reviewed in September 2017
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, and no interest loans

Cancer Council NSW carers support services
We can offer support online, over the phone and in person. We can also link you to our practical support services and provide information on a wide range of cancer-related topics.

Cancer information

What is cancer?
How cancer starts and spreads

Emotions and cancer
Here are some suggestions for managing the physical effects of the diagnosis, coping with the diagnosis, as well as how to get support.

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends

 

SHARE
TOP BACK TO TOP