I’m caring for someone with cancer

There are many types of cancer and different stages of the disease, which will affect people differently and also impact the level and type of care they require. You may have more responsibilities over time if you are caring for someone with advanced cancer. Or, you may have fewer responsibilities as your loved one recovers.

Here are some ways you can help, no matter your loved one’s diagnosis, treatment or prognosis.  

  • Practical support

    You can help your loved one by scheduling appointments, accompanying them to appointments, arranging home care visits and doing tasks around the house such as cooking meals. You may also need to make sure that important papers are organized and kept in a safe place. This can include insurance documents, wills, advance directives and other legal or financial papers.

    Caregiver tip:
    If you are the main contact for letting family and friends know how your loved one is doing, you may want to set up a special social media group. You could also create an email list.

  • Emotional support

    You might need to help your loved one deal with their emotions and talk through difficult decisions that have to be made about care and treatment.

    Caregiver tips:

    • Help them live as normally as possible. Encourage them to continue with their usual day-to-day life as much as they can
    • Encourage them to share their feelings with you. Let them know it’s OK to express fears and concerns about what is going to happen
    • Keep them company. Just being there can be comforting. Talk, watch movies together or listen to music
    • Use touch when you can’t find the words. A squeeze of the hand or a gentle hug can say a lot
    • Respect their need for privacy and to be alone. Coping with cancer sometimes means that you and your loved one have to take some time alone to think, reflect or just take a break
  • Personal care and physical support

    You may be asked to help someone:

    • walk or move around with a walker or wheelchair
    • get in and out of the tub or shower or give sponge baths in bed
    • get into or out of a bed or chair or help them turn or roll over in bed
    • use the toilet or bedpans or change incontinence pads
    • brush their teeth, keep lips moist or rinse their mouth
    • wash their hair, moisturize skin and trim their nails

    It’s important to determine what you are and aren’t comfortable doing. Be honest with yourself and the person you’re caring for about what you can realistically do.

    Caregiver tip:

    Look into what home care services are available where you live. Home care staff can help with bathing and also teach you tasks like how to turn someone in bed. Be sure to ask about getting assistive devices such as a walker, lift, wheelchair, shower chair, grab bar or portable commode.

  • Medical care support

    You may be responsible for giving and storing medicines. This includes giving the correct dose of medicine and keeping track of when medicine was given. If you are not comfortable administering medication, look into home care services in your area. As a caregiver, you may also need to communicate with your loved one’s medical team.

    Caregiver tip:

    Write down questions to ask before appointments; listen and write down information during appointments. Also, be sure to ask the health care team how you can assist in managing the side effects of the cancer treatment.

  • Get help:

    Not sure where to start? Call our 24/7 helpline or talk to us in our live chat to find resources in your community.

    *Source: Canadian Cancer Society