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Looking after someone with cancer

There are almost 1.5 million people who care for someone with cancer across the UK, spending an average of 17.5 hours a week looking after their loved one (Macmillan Cancer Support report, 2016). What’s more, one in five carers provide support for more than 35 hours a week – the equivalent of a full-time job. Yet half of all carers of someone with cancer in the UK do not receive any support, with many people not even considering themselves as a ‘carer’.

For many people living with cancer, facing their illness without the dedicated and affectionate support of their family and friends would be unbearable. For carer’s themselves though, looking after a loved one who has cancer can undoubtedly be an extremely worrying and stressful time and can have a significant impact on their own physical and mental health. However, there is a lot of support available to help carers manage looking after someone with cancer, which is outlined on this page.

Remember, if you need any clinical advice about caring for a loved one with cancer, please do not hesitate to ask your Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) in the first instance. There is also the Macmillan Cancer Information Centre at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, where you can get support with the practical and emotional aspects of looking after someone with cancer.

Financial support for carers

The main form of financial support for carers is Carer’s Allowance. If you are looking after someone for 35 hours a week or more, and providing the person you care for already receives a qualifying disability benefit (e.g. Personal Independence Payment), then you may be eligible for Carer’s Allowance. You do not have to be related to, or live with, the person you care for to receive this benefit, however, you need to be age 16 or older, not be in full-time education and your average weekly earnings (income from employment /self-employment) must be £151 or less a week after tax, National Insurance and expenses (such as 50% of your pension contributions, work-related travel costs etc.). Carer’s Allowance is currently paid at £81.90 a week for 2024-25 and whilst you’re claiming this benefit you’ll also automatically accrue National Insurance credits.

As well as Carer’s Allowance, you may also be eligible to receive further financial support, including Universal Credit, a council tax reduction and Pension Credit (if you have reached State Pension age).

For more information on Carer’s Allowance and other benefits, including a full list of eligibility criteria and how to make a claim, please click the following link to the GOV.UK website: 

We also have a dedicated page outlining the financial support that may be available to someone with a cancer diagnosis.

Carers support charities and services

TuVida - The Berkshire Carers Hub

TuVida aims to provide individualised support that helps carers live life with independence, choice and peace of mind. They are a not-for-profit organisation (UK registered charity no. 1051649). The Carers Hub / Service offers information, advice and guidance, access to carers support groups, free training for carers, free access to local leisure, health and wellbeing facilities and much more. For more information about TuVida, as well as how to get in touch, please click here.

Carers UK

Carers UK (UK registered charity no. 246329) is a supportive community and national campaigner for better recognition and support for carers. The Carers UK website contains a wealth of information on topics including financial support, practical support (such as how to get a carer’s needs assessment and guidance for coming out of hospital), health and well-being advice and support for carers to take a much deserved break. To access these resources, find out more about Carers UK’s advocacy work and get in contact, please click here.

Sue Ryder

Sue Ryder (UK registered charity no. 1052076) provides care and support to people living with life-limiting conditions and their families / carers. As well as palliative inpatient care, Sue Ryder also offers day services at the Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading, along with sites at Wokingham Community Hospital and West Berkshire Community Hospital in Newbury. These day services provide physical support such as pain management and physiotherapy, psychological and practical support, as well as expert advice for families / carers to help them look after someone in their own home. These centres are also an opportunity for people with life-limiting conditions to socialise and do enjoyable activities with people experiencing similar circumstances to them. Sue Ryder’s trained volunteer Befrienders are there to help people and their families / carers who are feeling lonely and will even accompany the person you care for on visits to the shops or the cinema for example, to give you some well-earned free time. To find out more about the services Sue Ryder offers, including how to make a referral, please click here.

Macmillan Cancer Support

Macmillan Cancer Support (UK registered charity no. 261017) offer help with the practical, emotional and financial impacts of caring for someone with cancer. The practical support available includes finding out more about what you can do to prepare before the person you care for leaves hospital, including having a home occupational therapy assessment, advice on managing symptoms and side effects of treatment and tips on helping the person you care for get washed, dressed, take their medication correctly and keep as mobile as possible. Macmillan also offer emotional support to cancer patients and their carers; the confidential Macmillan Support Line is available 7 days a week if you need someone to talk to and their website covers topics like what feelings you might naturally expect when caring for someone with cancer. To explore the full range of support available from Macmillan, please click here.

Reading Borough Council

On the Reading Borough Council Services Guide website, there is guidance for carers on how to get support from social care services and the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT). Social services can also arrange for you to have a carer’s needs assessment by a support worker, to focus on how caring for someone affects you personally and identify where you may need more support to protect your own health and wellbeing. There are also details on how to get in touch with local support groups in your area. To access the Reading Borough Council Services Guide, please click here. Reading Borough Council also have information for carers here.