- Cancer Information
- Caring for someone with cancer
- Caring for yourself
- Finding ways to cope
Finding ways to cope
Caring for someone with cancer is not always easy or satisfying. Many carers say they feel overburdened and resentful.
The following strategies may help you cope. See also Ways to manage your emotions.
Focus on the value of caring
Acknowledging the benefits of caring may help you feel better. These may include learning new skills, strengthening your relationship as you demonstrate your love, and gaining satisfaction from providing care to someone in need.
Set boundaries and limits
Outline what you are comfortable helping with, the level of workload you can manage, and what your own needs are. For example, if you find it difficult to wash or provide intimate care to the person you are looking after, consider organising regular visits from a care worker. You are allowed to say no.
Organise your time
Use your phone or a diary to keep track of information and appointments, and to help you prioritise your weekly tasks and activities.
Draw on spirituality
Some people find meaning and comfort in their religion, faith and spiritual beliefs. Others may experience spirituality more generally. A cancer diagnosis can challenge the beliefs of some people. It may help to talk about your feelings with a spiritual care practitioner, religious leader or counsellor.
Deal with uncertainty
When the person you care for is having treatment, life may seem less predictable and it may be hard to plan ahead. Carers often find this uncertainty stressful and feel that their life is in limbo. You may find it easier to cope if you focus on those things you can control right now. Letting go of what you cannot control leaves you with more energy and mental capacity.
Keep a journal
Writing down what has been happening may allow you to release your worries or frustrations. Reading back through journal entries can provide perspective – you may see that some days are better than others. It also lets you reflect on how you’re coping and identify areas you need assistance with.
Look for reliable information
It may help to learn more about cancer and possible treatment options. Going with the person to medical appointments can give you a better understanding of the treatment plan.
If caring becomes too much
You might find providing care difficult. It may be that the physical demands are becoming too much, especially if you are older or have your own health issues. Perhaps you know you need support but don’t want to disappoint the person you’re caring for. Learn about ways to get practical help.
You could also find that caring is emotionally exhausting. You
may find it helpful to see a counsellor. They may help you see ways to make caring more manageable. Your GP or local Cancer Council can refer you to a counsellor.
Learn more ways to find support.
Dr Laura Kirsten, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, NSW; Mary Bairstow, Senior Social Worker, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Anne Booms, Nurse Practitioner – Supportive and Palliative Care, Icon Cancer Centre Midland, WA; Dr Erica Cameron-Taylor, Staff Specialist, Department of Palliative Care, Mercy Hospice, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Tracey Gardner, Senior Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council Queensland; Louise Good, Cancer Nurse Consultant, WA; Verity Jausnik, Senior Policy Officer, Carers Australia; David Larkin, Cancer Supportive Care Manager, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital and Health Service, ACT; Kate Martin, Consumer; John McMath, Consumer; Simone Noelker, Physiotherapist and Wellness Centre Coordinator, Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, VIC; Tara Redemski, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer Care, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Dean Rowe, Consumer; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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