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Making the decision to become a carer

When your partner, relative or friend is ill, you may find you’re the most appropriate person to support and care for them. This could be because other family members live far away, or for another reason.

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If you have a choice, think about whether you can commit to becoming the person’s main carer before offering. It’s physically and emotionally demanding and may take up a lot of your time.

Caring for someone can be rewarding too. You may experience a much deeper relationship with your relative or friend. You may find it comforting to be able to make their final months and days as comfortable as possible.

Questions to ask yourself

Think carefully about whether you have the time and energy to care for someone in this very demanding situation.

  • Are you physically fit enough to care for someone?
  • How do you cope in stressful and emotional situations?
  • Are you well organised?
  • Can you give up some of your existing commitments and your social life while you’re caring for the person?
  • Are you able to change your daily routine, including your sleeping patterns?
  • Can you function on less or interrupted sleep?
  • Do you usually adapt well to new circumstances?
  • Can you complete forms and make phone calls for the person?
  • Will you need to reduce your working hours, and can you manage on a lower income?

Asking yourself these questions, and answering them honestly, is important. Agreeing to care for someone and finding yourself unable to cope later on could make things difficult for your relative or friend.

Even if you don’t have a choice about caring for someone, or would not consider any other option, these questions will help you prepare for what’s involved.

Balancing work and caring

As a carer, you have the right to ask to work flexibly if you need to. Altering your hours or pattern of work, or working from home, may make your caring role easier.

It’s also worth considering that you may need to reduce your working hours or even give up your job altogether. Think carefully about whether you could afford to do this. Visit Carers UK   for more advice. If you do need to give up your job completely, remember that you might become eligible for benefits such as income support   or carer’s allowance  .

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Who else can help?

You may be trying to do everything yourself, either because you want to or because you feel you have no other choice. This can put a lot of pressure on you.

If you’re worried that you won’t be able to cope, but want to or have to care for someone anyway, consider creating a caring network. This could be as simple as a friend living locally doing the weekly shop and a relative who lives far away coming to care for the person one weekend a month. You can download a phone app from Carers UK  , for £2.99, to help you coordinate care with a network of people.

Ask yourself who else can help:

Read How family and friends can help and look at our Directory of useful organisations for more information.

More resources and information for you as a carer are available in our Being there for someone with a terminal illness pages.

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Adapt, don’t give up

Remember – just because you don’t have time to do things you normally like doing, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to enjoy those things. For example, if you’re creative you might be able to do some drawing while the person you care for is having some time to themselves or sleeping. Your relative or friend may enjoy your drawings too.

Instead of going to the gym, you could try doing some gardening or going for a walk while someone else stays with the person you’re caring for. Caring itself keeps you quite physically active.

Keep in touch with friends and family by phone and email or through social networking. Remind people that you unfortunately can’t join in with social activities while you’re caring for someone. But let them know you’re still there, you appreciate it and maybe next time.

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Other people’s experiences

You might find it helpful to read and watch videos about the experiences of other carers.

Healthtalk.org has a selection of video clips about caring for someone   with a terminal illness. These show people discussing their own experiences of caring and cover a range of topics.

You might find it supportive to meet other people who are in a similar situation as yourself, through local networks   and online forums like the Marie Curie Community   or the Carers UK forum  .

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External websites

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