Carers often give practical care to patients. This can include:
- Household chores like cleaning
- Preparing meals
- Providing transport – day-to-day transport and travelling to the GP and to hospital appointments
- Dealing with money matters
Sometimes these roles can be overwhelming when you have other responsibilities such as running your own home, looking after your children or going to work.
Try to write a list of all the jobs that need to be done and prioritise them. A list will also help you to share out the jobs with other carers.
Ask your family member or loved one what they would like help with. Remember it's their home. Your loved one may be entitled to home care supports, so speak to the medical social worker in the hospital or your local health service executive (HSE) office. You can also ring the HSE live helpline on 1850 24 1850.
If your loved one isn’t feeling well, or is having side-effects after their treatment, they may not have much appetite. Or they may need a special diet, like a soft diet or a high-calorie diet. Ask to speak to the hospital dietitian if you have any questions about preparing food.
You could also read our booklet Diet and Cancer below. It has helpful tips for carers about meals for someone with cancer.
If you’re very busy as a carer, ask people to bring meals in plastic containers that you can use or freeze for later.
Stocking up on some good-quality, nutritious ready meals or using a healthy meal-delivery service can also help.
Carers often support their loved ones with travel to hospital for appointments and treatment. But if they can't help with these important journeys, help is available.
The Irish Cancer Society runs two programmes to help with travelling to and from appointments:
- The Volunteer Driver Service, where trained volunteer drivers give patients and their carer a lift to and from chemotherapy appointments.
- The Travel2Care programme, which helps with the costs of transport to hospital for diagnosis or treatment appointments.
For more details on these services, see our booklet The Financial Impact of Cancer below.
Some local cancer support centres and other charities also provide volunteer driver schemes. For more information on these services, ask the medical social worker at the hospital or talk to one of our cancer nurses – call the Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700, drop in to a Daffodil Centre, or email the nurses at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your loved one needs medical equipment, such as a wheelchair, speak to your public health nurse or the occupational therapist or nurses at the hospital. They will advise you.
The Home Care Package Scheme (HCP)
This HSE scheme is for people who need to be cared for in their own homes. It can reduce the amount of physical and practical care that you have to give to your loved one.
If your loved one is being discharged from hospital, make sure you ask the medical social worker in the hospital about a home care package. If there is no medical social worker in the hospital, then ask to see the discharge coordinator and ask them about referral to these services.
If your loved one is already at home, ask your community or public health nurse about this scheme.
The package may include the services of nurses, home helps and various therapies including physiotherapy and occupational therapy services. Your loved one might also receive some respite care or aids or appliances if these are needed to support them to stay in their own home.
The services that are supplied will depend on the patient’s needs, as assessed by the HSE, your location, and the levels of other supports available, from you, other family members or friends.
Check with your Local Health Office for more details on the scheme in your area. You may be able to access free caring supports, including respite and palliative care, if you discuss your needs with a Public Health Nurse in your Local Health Centre. Find your Local Health Centre.
Dealing with money matters
Money may well be the last thing on your mind if your loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, but it can make things easier in the long run if you get organised from the start.
For more on this, see Your entitlements and finances.
Hints and tips
- If you find it difficult to deal with financial matters or fill in forms, ask a friend or family member to take on that job.
- Find out if there is a medical social worker at the hospital and ask to speak to them. They can give you advice about benefits to apply for and supports and services available.
- Ask about any costs and charges when your loved one is first admitted to hospital, to see if you will have to pay anything.
- If your loved one has health insurance it’s a good idea to call the insurer as soon as possible. Tell them about your loved one’s treatment and find out what they are covered for.
- Ask your pharmacist or the medical social worker about the Drugs Payment Scheme, Medical Card or the Long-term Illness Card.
- Keep a folder for receipts, if you will be claiming back any medical costs from your health insurer or as tax relief using the Med 1 Claim form.
- Your local Intreo (social welfare) office can give you advice about applying for benefits that you or your loved one may be entitled to if you have to give up work, as well as other illness-related payments.
For more information
1800 200 700