by CanTeen07/12/2018

When You Have Cancer and Your Child is Your Carer

A carer is someone who provides unpaid support to a family member or friend who could not manage without this help. Your child may be helping you with tasks such as cleaning, cooking and shopping, or physically with things like getting dressed, or taking you to the treatment centre. 

Allowing and supporting your child to care for you can have benefits. You may become closer, and they may learn new skills and feel more mature.  

At the same time, make sure they don’t take on too much and end up overwhelmed. It’s important that they keep focusing on their study or work and do things they enjoy, like sport or spending time with friends. Encourage them to discuss with you their new responsibilities and express their feelings and concerns.   

Acknowledge and appreciate 

  • If your child is a teenager, suddenly becoming a carer can be particularly taxing. They are at the stage when they want to be more independent from their family and spend more time with friends. This can make them feel angry and guilty at the same time.  
    Older children (young adults) who’ve delayed moving out of home, or had to move back home, to care for you may feel the same.  
  • Tell your child how much you appreciate what they’re giving up and all they are doing to support you. 
  • Encourage them to talk to friends or relatives – or to vent to people outside their network who have been in the same boat in CanTeen’s online community for young people affected by cancer in the family.  
  • Ensure they get time and space to themselves when they need it, and also can keep up with friendships, activities and their normal life as much as possible. 

Get help for your carer 

Your child may want to be a source of strength and support to you. But you need to make sure they are not quietly crumbling under the pressure and recognise when they might need help. 

  • Call in the cavalry. Ask extended family and friends to support your child and to step in sometimes so your child can have time out.  
  • Your child/family may be able to get financial help from the Australian Government. There are some payments specifically for young carers (25 or under) and others available to carers of all ages. See links below or Dealing with Centrelink
  • Find out about respite care – having someone care for you (at home or in a care centre) so your child can have a break. Ask someone in your treatment team about respite care or call CanTeen: 1800 835 932.   

More advice/support 

> Call a CanTeen counsellor (1800 835 932), or talk to the oncology social worker at the hospital or another member of your treatment team who can direct you to information and help for carers.  

> Young Carers is an organisation that supports kids who care for a parent with a serious illness:  1800 242 636 or 

Useful sites/resources 

The Australian Government Carer Gateway is a national online and phone service that provides practical information and resources to support carers. The interactive service finder helps carers connect to local support services.