Caring for a loved one with cancer

May 11, 2023 Cancer Care

Caring for a loved one with cancer

Supporting a loved one or family member that has cancer can be extremely difficult. Contraction and treatment of cancer can be a very draining ordeal for the patient. Pain can occur in multiple stages. The discomfort that this can bring can be very severe and often has a debilitating side-effects, seeing a loved one in pain can be distressing and in this instance a caregiver, be it family, friends or a professional could help go a long way to the support of both you and your loved one.

Caring for a person with cancer may seem complex and too much to cope with at first but with some advice and compassion, it is possible to make a life for you and your loved one that bit easier. Depending on the person’s needs, you may need to provide different types of support. This may include:

  • Emotional support
  • Help with medical care
  • Assistance with financial and insurance issues or serving as the communicator between the patient and the health care team.

Of course, everyone has their care requirements that need to be seriously taken into consideration when caring for them, however, here is some advice if this is your first time caring.

Start by making a list of all your caregiving tasks

Try ordering them by importance. Then, use the list to decide how to divide the tasks between friends, family, professionals, and other volunteers. Learn more about sharing responsibilities.

Be proactive

Take charge and plan as much as possible to prevent last-minute emergencies. This can also help provide a sense of control and order. Create schedules that list which relative, friend, or other volunteer is available when and for what tasks. Make sure that all of the caregivers involved have some time to be away without feeling guilty or concerned. Long-distance caregiving takes even more planning. Find out more about how to be an effective long-distance caregiver.

Be a problem solver

Identify problems, find out what is needed, and follow-through. Do not be afraid to seek advice and help from others. Look for creative solutions that work for you and the person you care for.

Be a good listener

A good listener tries to be aware of someone’s thoughts and feelings as much as they can. You don’t need to have all the answers. Just listening to a person’s concerns or worries can be hugely helpful.

A good listener tries to really tune in and listen to a person in the moment. Listening is an important part of providing emotional support.

Here are some tips on how to listen well.

  • Try to keep the setting private, relaxed and with few distractions.
  • Maintain eye contact but don’t stare.
  • Let the person with cancer lead the conversation and try not to interrupt.
  • Give your full attention to what they are saying.
  • If you’re finding it difficult or upsetting don’t change the subject – say how you feel, this can prevent any awkwardness.
  • If they cry, don’t try to cheer them up. Reassure them that it’s OK to be sad and that it’s a normal response to what’s happening to them.
  • A friendly touch of the hand can help but if they pull away give them space.
  • Try not to give advice unless they have asked for it.
  • Don’t use humour unless they have used it themselves.
  • Silences are OK, don’t feel like you have to fill them with words.

Try to stay positive

Having a positive attitude can help set the tone for all that you do. You may not have control of what happens to you, but you can change how you react. To help cope, talk with other members of the caregiving team. You may also wish to talk with friends, religious or spiritual advisors, counsellors, and health care professionals.

Try not to

  • Say you know how they feel – we can’t ever know exactly how someone with cancer feels.
  • Tell them to ‘be strong’ or ‘be positive’ – it puts pressure on them to behave a certain way.
  • Take things personally if they seem angry or upset or don’t want to talk.
  • Offer advice that they haven’t asked for.
  • Compare their situation to somebody else you know, each person’s experience with cancer is unique.

Recognize your strengths and weaknesses as a caregiver. This allows you to set boundaries and know when to ask for help. Setting limits can help you and the person you care for. The person you care for can exercise some independence, while you get a break. It is important to recognize when you need a break, so you don’t feel burned out. Learn more about how caregivers can take care of themselves.

Remember, if you’re looking after a loved one with cancer, there are health and social care professionals who can support you.

  • A GP – who has overall responsibility for the healthcare of someone who is being cared for at home.
  • A key worker – who might be a specialist nurse or social worker. They will be your main point of contact who can answer any questions.
  • District and community nurses – who help with nursing tasks at home, such as wound dressings.
  • The community specialist palliative care team – who helps control pain or other symptoms as well as offering emotional support.
  • An occupational therapist (OT) – who makes sure the person you care for is safe and comfortable at home. They can suggest and arrange minor changes to their home.
  • A physiotherapist – who helps the person if they have problems moving around.
  • Social workers – who will do a carer’s assessment or community care assessment to see what practical and social help you and the person you care for needs.

How can Cavendish Homecare help?

Cavendish Homecare is a specialist in Cancer Care at home and has the expertise to provide treatment for patients in their own homes. If you are currently caring for a loved one but may require some support or some guidance we can help.

If you would like to enquire about our Palliative Homecare, contact us on, 02030085210 or email us at

About the Author…

Mairead Liston

Registered Nurse and Founder of Cavendish Homecare

Mairead Liston, a dedicated figure in healthcare, began her journey as a nurse and midwife, laying the foundation for a remarkable career. Driven by passion and expertise, Mairead established a successful nursing agency, serving as a crucial staffing resource for major hospitals in London and the UK.

In 2010, Mairead founded Cavendish Homecare with a mission to provide exceptional care in the comfort of people’s homes. Mairead’s areas of expertise encompass palliative and end of life care, post-operative care, and cancer care, ensuring the delivery of the highest quality of care to her clients.

Her transformative impact is exemplified through prestigious awards, including the ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award and the Chief Nursing Officer in Adult Social Care Silver award, recognising her dedicated service to social care.

By becoming a member of the Guild of Freemen of the City of London, Mairead not only emphasises her active support for both current and future nurses but also plays a vital role in contributing to the ongoing evolution of the nursing profession.

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