A carer provides unpaid care and support to a person who needs this assistance because of a disease such as cancer, a disability, mental illness or ageing. Anyone can be a carer, regardless of your age, sex, sexuality, profession or cultural background.
You may be a family member, friend or neighbour. You might not even see yourself as a carer, rather that you are simply helping out a person in need or that you are providing care as a natural extension of your relationship.
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Every carer is different
For some, becoming a carer can be sudden; for others, it’s a gradual process. However it happens, it may take some time to adjust to the role. Some carers are very willing to accept the increased responsibilities; others may be reluctant but feel pressured into accepting the role out of a sense of duty.
You may have to balance caring with other demands such as work, family or study. 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. Sometimes a carer lives a long way from the person they are helping and coordinates care by phone, email or the internet.
Caring can be more than a one-person job. Family and friends are often willing to help, but don’t know how – consider telling them what you need help with. You can also access a range of support services.
What carers do
The caring role varies depending on the situation and usually changes over time. It often involves a wide range of tasks and sometimes means that you need to learn a new range of skills.
- Advocate for the person with cancer
- Monitor and manage symptoms and treatment side effects
- Keep records of appointments, test results and treatments
- Navigate the health care system
- Manage medicines
- Work with the health care team
- Look after the home, ensuring it is kept clean, safe and well maintained
- Manage family responsibilities, such as care of children or parents
- Provide transport to treatment
- Help with personal care
- Encourage exercise
- Prepare meals
- Do shopping
- Offer companionship
- Be an active non-judgemental listener
- Provide encouragement, comfort and understanding
- Access professional support if needed
- Communicate and negotiate with family and friends
- Talk to the person about planning ahead
- Help the person see a lawyer to make legal arrangements for the future, such as wills and advance care directives
- Arrange for the person to get professional advice to help them manage the financial impact of cancer