- Cancer Information
- Supporting someone with cancer
- Caring for someone with cancer
- Your role as a carer
Your role as a carer
You are a carer, or caregiver, if you provide ongoing unpaid care and support to a person who needs this assistance because of a disease such as cancer, a disability, mental illness or ageing. You may be a partner, family member, child, friend or neighbour.
You might not see yourself as a carer, but as someone simply helping out a person in need. You may feel that caring is part of your relationship with the person affected, or you may feel pressured to be a carer out of a sense of duty.
Learn more about:
- What carers do
- Carers in Australia
- Medical care
- Practical support
- Financial matters
- Planning for the future
- Communicating with others
- Emotional support
- Long-distance caring
- Video: Looking after yourself as a carer
What carers do
Becoming a carer can be sudden or it may be a gradual process. You may provide care for a short time or over months or years. Care may be needed for a few hours a week or on a 24-hour basis, and the level of care you provide may change over time.
Every caring situation is different. What you need to do will vary depending on the situation and will usually change over time. It often involves a wide range of tasks and sometimes means that you need to learn a new range of skills.
Below is a summary of some of the key tasks and skills that are often involved in caring.
- Advocate for the person with cancer
- Work with the health care team
- Monitor and report symptoms and treatment side effects
- Keep records of appointments, test results and treatments
- Navigate the health care system, and Medicare and Centrelink payments
- Manage and give medicines
- Look after the home, keeping it safe and comfortable
- Manage family responsibilities, such as caring for children or parents
- Provide transport to treatment
- Help with personal care
- Encourage exercise
- Prepare meals
- Do shopping
- Look after pets
- Help the person see a lawyer to make legal arrangements for the future, such as a will and advance care directive
- Ensure advance care directives are uploaded to myhealthrecord.gov.au and take witnessed copies with you to appointments
- Arrange for the person to get professional advice to help them manage the financial impact of cancer
- Talk about end-of-life plans
- Offer companionship
- Be an active non-judgemental listener
- Provide encouragement, comfort and understanding
- Arrange professional support if needed
- Keep family and friends up to date
- Negotiate care and responsibilities with others
- Talk about other things aside from cancer
Carers in Australia
About 11% of Australians are unpaid carers who provide care to someone with a disability or illness.
The Carer Recognition Act 2010 (Commonwealth) states that carers should have:
- the same rights as other Australians
- recognition and respect
- support to enjoy good health and social wellbeing
- economic security and the opportunity to do paid work and education
- access to appropriate services
- acknowledgement as individuals with their own needs
- recognition as partners with other care providers.
All state and territory governments have also passed their own Act and policies. For more details, visit carergateway.gov.au.
Video: Looking after yourself as a carer
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.