Caregiver support program

A cancer diagnosis affects close friends and family too. Find out what to expect if you become a caregiver for a person with cancer, and get tips for making sure that you take care of yourself as well. 

Good communication with the person you are caring for is the most important part of your role. Here are some things you can try to do to keep the patient involved:

  • Help them live as normal a life as possible.
  • Encourage them to share feelings, and support their efforts to share.
  • Let your loved one know you’re available, but don’t press issues.
  • Remember that people communicate in different ways.
  • Take your cues from the person with cancer.
  • Be realistic and flexible about what you hope to talk about and agree on.
  • Respect the need to be alone. Sometimes, we all need time alone – even you.



A caregiver is defined in this guide as the person who most often helps the person with cancer and is not paid to do so. In most cases, the main (primary) caregiver is a spouse, partner, parent, or adult child. When the family is not around, close friends, coworkers, or neighbors may fill this role. The caregiver has a key role in the patient’s care. Good, reliable caregiver support is crucial to the physical and emotional well-being of people with cancer.

Today, most cancer treatment is given in outpatient treatment centers. This means someone is needed to provide part of the day-to-day care of the person with cancer and that sicker people are being cared for at home. As a result, caregivers have many roles, which change during and after cancer treatment.

As a caregiver, you have a huge influence on how cancer patient deals with their illness. Your encouragement can help the patient stick with a demanding treatment plan and take other steps to get well, like eating healthy meals or getting enough rest.


You may serve as a home health aide and companion. You may help feed, dress, and bathe the patient. You may arrange schedules, manage insurance issues, and provide transportation. You may be a legal assistant, financial manager, and housekeeper. You may have to take over the duties of the person with cancer, and still meet the needs of other family members.

On top of the normal day-to-day tasks, such as meals, cleaning, and driving or arranging transportation, as a caregiver, you’ll also become an important part of the cancer care team. This busy schedule could leave you with no time to take care of your own needs. You also may feel the need to turn down job opportunities, work fewer hours, or even retire early to meet the demands of being a caregiver.

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