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Caring for the carer when someone is dying

Coping with cancer

Read our information to help you if you are looking after someone in their final weeks of life. There is information about


Your feelings and reactions

Finding out that someone close to you is going to die can be devastating. Even if you were expecting to hear the news it can still come as a big shock. You may feel angry, sad, guilty and frightened about how it will happen and if you will cope. But you may also have a sense of relief. Now you know what is going on and can focus on making your time together as special as possible.

For most carers, the hardest part is thinking about how it will affect the person with cancer. You may worry about whether or not they will be in pain, feel sick or be breathless. Or you may have concerns that they may get very anxious and depressed and wonder how you will be able to help support them. You may be able to help the person with cancer through some of these things.

As a carer you are likely to need time to let the news sink in. It is important to allow yourself this time. You can try to get your thoughts and emotions together and think about help and support that you may need. The best thing to do is try and focus on what you can do to help. Let the person you are caring for know how you are feeling, share your fears, and let them know that you are there to love and support them as much as you can.


Don’t feel bad - being a carer can be difficult

Being a carer can be emotionally and physically exhausting. At times it may feel extremely difficult and you just wonder how you are going to cope. This is a very natural response. 

Some people feel guilty if it feels like hard work at times. This doesn’t mean that you don’t love or care for the person with cancer. It just means that you are human - like everyone, when things are tough, you will have your good and bad days.


Getting help and support

Other people can help you. Lean on your doctors, nurses, psychologist, palliative care services, social workers, friends and relatives where you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from any of them when you need it. 

You can’t do everything alone and most carers will need some help along the way. 

Carers UK can give you information and emotional support. They have support groups for carers all over the country and give practical advice on

  • Supporting yourself
  • Getting support from other carers
  • Where to get financial help
  • Housing and equipment
  • Where to get help in your area

Go to the Carers UK website.


Looking after yourself

Most carers find it very hard to take time to look after themselves. They are so busy caring for the person with cancer that they forget to take time out to care for themselves. But it is very important. Try to pick up on signs that you are feeling tired, hungry, or just plain fed up. 

Take an hour or two to

  • Go out and get some fresh air
  • Have something nice to eat and drink
  • Take a shower or a soak in the bath
  • Lie down
  • Meet or phone a friend to chat about how you feel

If you are worried about leaving the person with cancer on their own, organise friends to come and sit with them while you are away. You can also ask for help from volunteers through palliative care services. Ask your specialist community nurse or GP about this.

Taking time out from looking after the needs of the person with cancer, helps most carers to cope better. Keeping yourself physically well will help you to cope emotionally. Try not to feel guilty for taking time out for yourself. You are important too, and need to be cared for as well. 

Caring for yourself will benefit the person with cancer. It will support them to see you have a break and know that you are looking after yourself. Let them know when you are leaving and when you will be back. This will stop them getting anxious and allows you to go, knowing they feel safe.


For more information

Find out about

How someone dies

Help at home for someone with cancer

Advanced cancer organisations

For general information and support

Contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040 (Open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday)

Share experiences on our online forum – Cancer Chat

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Updated: 11 May 2016