Caring for yourself

A carer is someone who provides unpaid personal care and support to assist a person through a disease or disability such as cancer. Carers can provide support in different ways: practical, physical, emotional and spiritual.

Anyone can be a carer – you may be a relative, friend or neighbour. You may be of any age, sex, sexuality, profession or cultural background.

You may still be adjusting to the news that you need to care for someone with cancer. You may be wondering what carers do. It’s natural to be worried about the impact being a carer will have on your life and how caring might affect your relationships.

How will I feel?

A carer often experiences a range of feelings about their role and responsibilities. It’s common to feel as if you are on an emotional rollercoaster. Research shows that carers often experience higher levels of distress than the person with cancer. You may be questioning how you will manage the emotional and physical needs of the person you are caring for. Perhaps you have been providing care for some time and need some reassurance.

Caring for yourself

Your role as a carer is valuable. Many carers have said they are better people for the experience of caring. Some people find that caring can be rewarding and life-changing.

However, many carers also find caring demanding, both physically and emotionally. If you have been caring for someone for some time, you may feel exhausted. You might feel guilty making time for yourself. However, looking after yourself can help relieve the stress and exhaustion of caring, and reduce feelings of frustration and isolation.

Some things to try:
  • Make time for yourself – Stay involved in activities you enjoy and have a break every day, even for only 10 minutes.
  • Care for your body – Try to get enough sleep and rest, exercise and eat healthy meals. You can acknowledge that you are not feeling well without comparing it with how the person with cancer is feeling.
  • Deal with uncertainty – You may have to put some plans on hold because you are not sure what is ahead. Carers often find this uncertainty stressful. You may find it easier to cope if you focus on things you can control. It may also help to learn more about cancer and possible treatment options, so you feel like you have more knowledge about what is happening.
  • Talk with family and friends – Try not to hold in how you feel about caring, particularly if you are angry or frustrated. You may feel uncomfortable talking to the person with cancer because you think they have a lot to deal with already and you are meant to be their support. It’s understandable if you don’t want to talk to the person with cancer. You can share your feelings with friends or family members, or join a support group for carers.
  • Organise your time – It may not be possible to do everything you want to do. You will need to manage your time. Plan breaks or respite care in advance.
  • Focus on the value of caring – Many carers say focusing on the value they were adding through caring helped them to cope and made them feel better.

Seeking support

You may think you can cope on your own, but many carers have found that getting help made their lives easier. Cancer Council has many professional services and support programs that are here to help you.

Find out more about:
You don’t have to face cancer alone – we’re here to help.

For more information refer to the Caring for Someone with Cancer booklet. You can download a PDF or order a hard copy.