| WHAT IS MY ROLE AS A CARER?
A carer is anyone who looks after another person who needs extra care and attention
due to physical or mental disability and in this case, due to cancer. Anyone can be a
carer – a parent, child, spouse, relative or friend. The person is often not medically
trained like a nurse or doctor.
Your role as a carer is focused on caring for your loved one’s
daily needs. This can be any of the following:
It is a challenging role that will require much emotional
and physical strength, patience and tolerance. You
may find yourself doing things you have never done
- Looking after the housekeeping and chores
- Helping out with family matters (looking after children,
- Physically attending to your loved one – providing basic
personal care and nursing
- Providing moral support and companionship
You are likely to have a close relationship with the person
you’re caring for which means you will feel more sensitive
to the whole experience. You will have your ups and downs.
Anybody in your shoes (and there are others) would.
There are no magic phrases, or approaches, which are the
correct thing to say, or do. You will need to stay calm, keep a
clear and level head and don’t let the stress overwhelm you.
Just take it day-by-day and you’ll be able to cope with your
Remember, that your role is vital in helping your loved one
cope with his/her difficult time. Your support and care may
help them beat cancer. At the very least, you would have
made their final moments, more peaceful and comforting,
bringing dignity and solace in the final days.
THE ROLE OF A CARER
As a guide, the level of care required by a terminally ill cancer
patient compared to someone in the first stage will differ.
How well the person responds to treatment i.e. chemotherapy
is another factor. His/her emotional or psychological
temperament also plays a role.
Some prefer to be as independent as possible, requiring only
minor assistance. Others may be in emotional turmoil and
your presence may be needed at all time.
In most cases, your role will fall in between these two opposite
Remember, you are there for your loved one as he/she
needs and wants you. Do not over impose yourself on them.
They may resent the attention even though you have good
intentions. Show patience, understanding and just let them
know that they can rely on you when needed.
UNDERSTANDING THE SITUATION
When sizing up the situation, consider everyone’s needs
including yours. In the long run, your needs must also be
weighed in for a practical care arrangement.
Do you want to care for your loved one or would you require
additional help such as a live-in maid or a nurse? Can you
share the load with family or friends?
Here are some useful questions to help you better understand
- What type of cancer does my friend or relative have?
- How serious is it (treatable or terminal)?
- What kind of assistance do they need? Transport? Food?
House-keeping? Personal hygiene?
- Do I need to live with them or can I stay elsewhere and visit
during the day?
- Is the caring situation a long or short term one?
- Does my loved one want me to help?
- Am I able to provide the assistance required?
- Why do I want to be a carer?
- Will I feel that I am uncaring or disloyal if I stop later?
- What options are available to me?
- Who else can support me in this role?
LOOKING AFTER YOUR OWN NEEDS AS A CARER
The key areas you should be considering are your physical,
mental/emotional and financial needs.
Consider how becoming a carer, either full time or part time
will impact your ability to earn and be employed. Would you
need to give up or change jobs?
If you plan to stay with your present company, are there
flexible working options such as time off or working from
home? Do you have other income streams such as your
spouse or investments that can sustain you?
You do not want to add financial woes to your already
Share with your boss and colleagues that your life will be
changing. In most situations, they will be understanding and
would offer assistance where possible.
Talk to a certified financial planner to see whether there are
options available to you such as insurance and so on.
With some creativity, and determination, you can have a
career while being a carer.
You need to be in good physical and mental condition to
support your loved one. If you are weak or ill, caring would
be a difficult task and your sickness will affect your friend’s or
relative’s health as well especially since their body is weaker.
Always eat a well balanced diet and get sufficient exercise. Even
easy swimming, cycling or walking around the neighbourhood
would be beneficial.
Besides the physical benefits, being in good physical shape will
help you feel better about yourself and cope better with stress.
Stress is experienced by all carers. Caring for someone going
through cancer treatment can be very stressful and exhausting.
It takes emotional, spiritual, and physical strength. There is a
potential financial burden to care giving as well.
If you are at home looking after someone full-time, you may
not have much chance to go out or spend time with friends.
It may seem easier to stay in all the time, especially if the
person you are caring for is very ill and needs lots of attention.
Coupled with anxiety, fear and worry of seeing your dear one
in such a state, it can all add up to stress.
The tell tale signs of burnout:
This is why you need a good stress management strategy.
- being trapped
- emotional exhaustion
Here are some tips:
- Get a relative or friend to replace you while you take time
outs or have one whole day for yourself. Keep in touch
with friends and your social circle.
- Get family and friends involved where possible. Learn to
say yes when help is offered, especially for simple things
like shopping, cleaning or picking the kids from school and
- Find people you can talk to either friends or even a support
network of former cancer patients and carers like yourself.
They can share tips and ideas to better cope with your
- Hire a gardener, cleaner or maid to manage household
- Plan things that you enjoy. There are 3 types of activities
that you need for yourself: Do things that involve other
people, such as having lunch with a friend. Do things that
give you a sense of accomplishment, like exercising or
finishing a project. Do things that make you feel good or
relaxed, like watching a funny movie or taking a walk.
- Pay attention to these activities. Make an effort to notice
and talk about things you do as they happen during the
day. Watch the news or take time to read the morning
paper. Set aside time during the day, like during a meal,
when you do not talk about your loved one’s illness.
IS THERE SUPPORT FOR CARERS?
Yes, there is.
There are support groups consisting of other cancer care givers
or recovered patients, from Non-Governmental Organisations
(NGOs) and also from medical associations. Please refer to
the end of this handbook for more support organisations in
Getting The Help You Need
You need to ask yourself some basic questions so you can get
the help you need:
- Is the support for myself or for my loved one?
- Is it medical or health related assistance? Do I need more
information about a type of cancer, a particular drug or
- Is it physical assistance or just advice and/or someone to
share my situation with?
- Is it financial or legal assistance?