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Getting help and support when you are dying

Coping with cancer

This page tells you about 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 may 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 their needs, wishes, religious and cultural beliefs about how they would like to be looked after when they are dying will vary. It will help 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

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 the many 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 may be good neighbour schemes which offer befriending or practical help with shopping or transport.

You could contact your local cancer support group. Many offer practical help. And they will be a good source of information about the services in your area.

If you would like more information about anything to do with coping at home, contact one of the organisations listed on our page of organisations related to advanced cancer and dying. They will want to help and often have free factsheets and booklets they can send you.

Our who can help section has more information. And there is information about guidelines for looking after people who are dying in our question and answer section.

You can also contact our cancer information nurses. They would be happy to help.

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Updated: 7 March 2014