Caring for the carers

I was speaking to a friend the other day whose husband is going through chemotherapy. “How are you?”  I asked her.

“Well it’s been hard, his medication is still not right, he is in a lot of pain and so tired……” she responded.

“ Thank you for sharing that with me, but I actually asked how you are, not him?”.

“Oh……….” her eyes filled up with tears, “ I don’t really know…”.

When you have a family member going through cancer a lot of time and energy goes into focusing on their needs and rightly so. But we mustn’t forget about the other people that are also worried, stressed and exhausted during this difficult time. It can be hard to know what to do to help, so here are a few suggestions:

  1. Bake a healthy casserole/dinner and just drop it over. The patient may have little or no appetite, but the rest of the family still need to eat as normal.
  1. Offer to drive to hospital appointments. Close family often want to be present for hospital trips but due to other commitments may not be able to make all of them.
  1. Take their children to a fun park or a museum for the day to let the parents have a rest. Or even better still, have the kids for a sleepover!
  1. The patient’s partner may love a night at the movies or an evening in the pub to remind themselves of life outside the house. A “cancer-free” evening will give them more energy to return to caring.
  1. Gift some beautiful smelling pure essential oils for the family to diffuse around the house.
  1. Send a funny DVD for the family to watch. Laughter is a great stress reliever. Send funny FB posts or emails.
  1. Emergency essence is a combination of flower essences said to relieve stress and worries. You can purchase this from your local pharmacy or health-food store as a special gift.
  1. If you are money-rich but time-poor consider offer to pay for some gardening services, car valeting, cleaning or babysitting help.
  1. Don’t forget about the pets! Dog walking or mucking out horses are big responsibilities that may be too much for a family caring for an ill member. Set up a rota with other friends if you can’t commit to a dog walk a day.


When people are tired they may not be able to cope with visitors, however well-meaning. Drop gifts or food over to the family with a note saying “no reply needed…”

Some people find it hard to ask for help so rather than say “Call me if you need anything”, suggest a definite plan that you are prepared to do. For example “I would love to take the kids to the movies on Saturday”.

With 1 in 3 people being diagnosed with cancer, the opportunity to help a friend is likely to be reality for you one day.