Getting help and support when you are dying | Cancer Research UK
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Getting help and support when you are dying

Coping with cancer

Find out where to get help and support when you are dying. There is information about


Asking for help

It can be difficult to know where to get the right support for yourself and your carers. Some people find it very hard to ask for help. You might worry about bothering people or feel that you should be able to cope alone. But the right kind of support can make things very much easier for you.

Everyone is different and has different needs, wishes, religious and cultural beliefs about how they would like to be looked after when they are dying. It helps if you and your carers know in advance where to get the emotional and practical support you need.


GP and nursing support

Your GP will help with any medical problems that come up. The GP can also make referrals to nursing services for you. This includes

  • District nurses
  • Community specialist palliative care nurses
  • Marie Curie nurses

District nurses

District nurses can give nursing care, advice and get you special equipment to help you with home nursing (for example a commode or bed pan).

Community specialist palliative care nurses

Community specialist palliative care nurses, such as Macmillan nurses or hospice nurses, specialise in advising on pain control, sickness and other symptoms of cancer. They also give emotional support to carers as well as the person with the cancer.

Marie Curie nurses

Marie Curie nurses give nursing care to people in their own homes. They can visit during the day or spend the night to give you a break.


Social workers

For other types of help, it is a good idea to talk to a social worker. You can find them through social services or sometimes through the cancer unit where your relative is treated. Many hospices employ social workers who offer a range of services, and specialise in helping people towards the end of their life. 

A social worker can arrange

  • Home helps for shopping or housework
  • Home care assistants for washing and dressing
  • Meals on wheels
  • Respite care

Your social worker can also help you with money matters by checking you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to. Or they can arrange charity grants for things like extra heating costs or special diets. They may also offer counselling and advice about any practical issues you are dealing with.


Breaks for carers

Sometimes carers need a break for a few days. If so, your GP, specialist nurse or social worker may be able to arrange for you to go into a hospice or care home for a short time. This is called respite care. Or they may be able to organise more support in the home so that your carer knows you will be well looked after while they are away. 

Carers can sometime be reluctant to take much needed breaks. It can help to remind them that having a short break will help them to keep going and give them more energy in the long run.


Who else can help

There are many other sorts of help. What is available varies from place to place. Sometimes local voluntary groups offer sitting services (someone to come in and stay with your relative while you go out). There might be good neighbour schemes which offer befriending or practical help with shopping or transport.

Many support groups offer practical help and are a good source of information about the services in your area.

Find out about support groups.


For more information

Find out about

Practical issues - funerals, wills, finances

Caring for the carer

Organisations related to advanced cancer and dying

Who can help?

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: 29 June 2016