Support for Carers
By Jenny Daly
Becoming a carer, either as a young person or as an adult, for a family member, relative or friend who has been diagnosed with cancer can be stressful, but it can also be very rewarding.
As a carer, your life will change as you try to balance your new role with your other responsibilities. You may experience new emotions, worries or fears and wonder how you will cope with this new responsibility. It may be easy to put these feelings on hold, as you focus on the care needs of the person you are looking after. However, it is important to look after yourself, too.
Here are some tips on how to look after yourself as a carer:
Accept help from others:
You don’t have to do this alone. If you need support, reach out to family and friends, they may be able to offer you help, such as helping you with shopping, household chores, walking the dog for you, or simply letting you discuss how you’re feeling over the phone.
Take care of your own health:
Let your GP know that you are caring for someone. Tell them if you are struggling or finding it hard to cope. They can offer advice and support to help you with your own wellbeing.
Take regular breaks:
Don’t forget to schedule in ‘me’ time. Do something which can help you relax such as reading a book, exercising, watching your favourite film, or even try an adult colouring book.
Ensure you eat:
It’s important to ensure you still eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of liquids. CarersUK have a webpage with tips on Eating Well for Carers, including what to eat, managing/losing weight and eating on a budget.
Talk about your feelings and emotions:
It is important to talk about how you’re feeling . Reach out to your GP, family or friends if you are struggling with your emotions. You could also join a support group and meet others who may be going through a similar situation.
You could join the Big C Carers Group, a group for people caring for someone with cancer, or use the CarersUK website to search for other local support groups in your area. CarersUK also host an online forum so people across the UK who are caring for someone can meet virtually.
Get enough sleep:
If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can try some relaxation techniques before you go to bed such as this breathing technique recommend by the NHS.
Also, some care agencies may also be able to provide night sitters if you are caring for someone who is unwell.
There are also plenty of local organisations which offer support for both young and adult carers:
- Carers Matter Norfolk – Adult and Young Carers (0800 083 1148)
- Great Yarmouth & Gorleston Young Carers (01493 650 056)
- Suffolk Family Carers (01473 835 477)
- West Norfolk Carers – Adult and Young carers (01553 768 115)
- Norfolk Carer’s Support (01603 219 924)
- Free, confidential listening and information service for family carers 0808 808 9876
- Voluntary Norfolk is lead partner in the Young Carers & Family Support Service for carers in Norfolk under the age of 19 who may be looking after, or helping to look after a parent, grandparent or sibling (01603 614474)
How can Big C support me?
Big C is here to support anyone affected by cancer, including those caring for someone who has been diagnosed.
Our Support and Information Nurses and Officers are happy to listen to any concerns you may have and can offer you practical advice and support. Big C also offers support through our Carer’s Support Group, which is now meeting online via Zoom.
Alongside this, we know that looking after someone, may mean that you may have to give up working. At Big C, we work with local Citizens Advice Bureau and can offer benefits assessments to find out if there could be any financial support available to help you, such as the Carers Allowance.
Although Big C centres are closed temporarily, we’re still here for you. For more information about our services, call us at 0800 092 7640.
Jenny Daly is Cancer Information Clinical Nurse Specialist at Big C.