Marie Curie Helper service supports terminally ill people and their families

by Alice Collins Project Coordinator, Community Involvement

Carers Week runs from 10-16 June. As part of this, Marie Curie is recognising the contribution of carers of terminally ill people and raising awareness of the issues that affect them.
We understand that getting the right end-of-life care for people with a terminal illness also means that their carers are looked after during what can be an extremely difficult time. Caring for a terminally ill person can have a huge impact on the carer’s health and wellbeing, but with the right practical and emotional support, they can continue looking after their loved ones and themselves. Marie Curie campaigns to ensure that more people are able to be cared for and to die in their place of choice which for most people is home.  One of the ways we support this preference is by offering people with any terminal illness and their families free one-to-one support. The Marie Curie Helper service   is provided by specially trained volunteers who offer companionship and support to terminally ill people and their families. Our service aims to fill the gap in meeting the emotional support needs of terminally ill people, and those of their carers; provide carers with support to enable them to continue caring; and reduce social isolation faced by some terminally ill people and their carers. Helper volunteers can provide:

  • Companionship and emotional support by offering a friendly and supportive listening ear, and spending time engaging in everyday activities and conversation.

  • Practical support by accompanying individuals to an appointment or a social group. They can also help with small, everyday tasks such as making a cup of tea.

  • A short break for families and carers – enabling carers to have a short break and take some time for themselves.

  • Information on further support and servicesalthough Helper volunteers do not provide counselling, nursing or personal care, or carry out domestic tasks, they can help find information on other forms of support and local services.

  • Bereavement support to families and carers for up to three months.

An independent evaluation   of the service found that the support provided by Helper volunteers had a positive impact on the emotional wellbeing of terminally ill people and their carers who receive our service. Carers also reported that the short breaks they could take enabled them to feel less stressed and have greater peace of mind about the wellbeing of the person they cared for. We are currently running the Helper service in Somerset and Bristol, Nottinghamshire, Liverpool, East London and Northern Ireland (Belfast and Downpatrick areas). If you want to know more about the Helper service, please contact or watch this short video.  For those interested in volunteering, please visit our helper volunteer page or call our Volunteering Centre on 0845 305 2191 and register for an information pack. Volunteers must be 18 or older, and able to commit to the role for a minimum of one year.