Caring for and supporting someone with cancer can be an isolating and overwhelming commitment. While many resources are available to support those with cancer, the sheer volume of information available may seem daunting. As a result, people may not know how to connect with the right resources to obtain valuable support. The first step is to identify trustworthy sources to direct you to the information best suited for your specific needs. You may be encouraged when you realise how much support is readily available to help with the unique challenges you are facing. Below are some suggestions.
- Find a local support group, confidential line, or online community where you can talk about the issues that matter most to you. Macmillan Information and Support Centres are located across the country and offer free support to those affected by cancer. Cancer Research UK also offers a cancer chat forum.
- Share your highs and lows with someone you trust – such as a counsellor or psychologist who may be on the cancer team at your centre or with a close friend or family member. If you need to find a counsellor, ask for recommendations from your family member’s GP or cancer centre. You can also find one through Macmillan’s directory of support groups. Visit them online or call 0808 800 4040 to learn more.
- Write down any questions that cause you stress or concern. Ask someone on your cancer team, someone from a patient support organization, or a friend to help you find the answers. Cancer Research UK offers a free nurse helpline at 0808 800 4040.
- Take a break from your responsibilities as a carer. Engage in activities or hobbies that brighten your mood, make you feel good, or give you a sense of personal accomplishment.
- Take exercise to help alleviate stress. This could be in the form of a walk, cycle or exercise routine. Seek out ways to decompress such as relaxation techniques or mindfulness. There are apps available to guide you in your practice, including Headspace, Just Breathe and Calm, specifically developed to help you relax and unwind.
- Put yourself first and don’t ignore your own well-being. Eat well, stay hydrated, exercise and tend to your own healthcare needs. Keep regular doctor or dentist appointments.
- Ask for help coordinating care and finding specific ways your friends and family can best support you day to day. Your local social services or Carers Trust may also be able to tell you how to find reliable care workers or personal assistants in your area to provide support with cleaning, washing, cooking and shopping.
- Consider using online tools created to share information and ask for help – Jointly, an app developed by Carers UK, helps family members share information and co-ordinate tasks, for a less stressful and more organised caring experience. Medisafe is another app that can be used to learn more about medications and conditions. It also provides alerts when a dose of medication is due.
- Review details of your loved one’s finances, including insurance policies, and other sources of income with your partner, a trusted friend, financial planner or welfare rights advisor. Working out a weekly or monthly budget may be an important first step to figuring out if you will need assistance.
- Consult online resources to identify which financial benefits are available to you and the person for whom you are caring. If you are caring for someone for 35 hours/week or more, you may qualify for a weekly payment called a Carer’s Allowance and/or you may be eligible for Carer’s Allowance and/or carer element if you are receiving Universal Credit. If you are paying National Insurance, Carer’s Credit may also help build up your entitlement to a State Pension. Visit www.gov.uk for more information about financial support and online application forms. The following resources explain these benefits in detail and provide advisors who can help you determine what is available to you and your loved one.
- Macmillan offers detailed financial guidance, including a helpline at 0808 808 00 00 with a specialist to help answer questions.
- Tenovus Cancer Care’s Ask the Advisor service allows individuals to submit questions to a benefits advisor who will respond within a day.
- Marie Curie offers a benefits calculator to help figure out what assistance may be available. They also provide information for family and carers, and tips on how to top up your benefits and have your needs assessed.
- Check with local organisations to see if they offer support to help offset costs associated with a cancer diagnosis or caring for someone with cancer. You may also be eligible for a grant, discount or additional support to help with your gas, electricity, water charges, travel, childcare or other costs associated with having cancer.