How relationships can change
Taking on a caring role often changes relationships. For many carers, a cancer diagnosis affects the established roles they have with their partner, parent, friend, dependent or adult child or sibling, and this can be a challenging adjustment.
The effect of cancer on a relationship varies, and the impact often depends on what your relationship was like before the cancer diagnosis. Some carers find the opportunity to care for someone strengthens the relationship with the person they are looking after.
For others, particularly those who had a strained relationship before the diagnosis, the pressure of a cancer diagnosis and treatment and the demands of caring add further tension. In this case, you may find it best to share the caring role with other people so you are not the full-time carer.
It can be helpful to understand the potential changes that cancer can bring. Read more about this below.
It’s such a different world when you become a carer. You’ve got no training, I knew no-one else who had been through it. You draw on life skills you’ve acquired over time, but you can’t really appreciate how much responsibility is on your shoulders until you are in it.
Learn more about:
- How cancer might change your relationship
- Ways to manage changes in your relationship
- Support for LGBTI carers
- Changes in sexuality and intimacy
- If your caring role ends
- I might need to take on new responsibilities that will reverse our roles.
- If I’m doing all the caring, they may feel like they’ve lost their independence.
- I may feel like it would be selfish to talk about my needs when they are having to go through cancer treatment.
- The intimacy we shared might be replaced by the caring role.
- We might need to re-evaluate our priorities and set new goals.
- Talk about the changes to avoid misunderstandings. Discuss ways to meet each other’s needs.
- Allow time to get used to the changes, particularly if roles have reversed.
- Set boundaries to maintain independence and allow both of you to feel in control.
- Arrange home help if you feel uncomfortable doing the bathing and dressing.
- Give the person you’re caring for the chance to do things for themselves.
- Use touch to show you care.
Tina Chivende, Social Worker, Cancer Psychosocial Service, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, ACT; Gabrielle Asprey, Telephone Support Group Facilitator, Cancer Council NSW; Dr Ben Britton, Senior Clinical and Health Psychologist, Calvary Mater Newcastle and John Hunter Hospital, and Conjoint Lecturer, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, NSW; Valmai Goodwin, Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council QLD; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Zoe Mitchell, Senior Social Worker, Palliative Care, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Amber Rose, Consumer; Carolina Simpson, Policy and Development Officer, Carers NSW.
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