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Cancer, living with - Cancer and social care

NHS Choices Feature

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If you have cancer, your first priority is medical care. But there are people who can help with other aspects of life, such as where to get help with money and benefits.

The first person to speak to about social care is your doctor or nurse. They'll be able to discuss your needs and refer you to a key worker, possibly a social worker. This is the person who'll be responsible for assessing exactly the kind of help you should get. There are so many sources of help available that it's essential to have someone to guide you. 

What kind of help could you hope to get?

A care attendant can help with housework, dressing and washing, or even just keep you company and give your carer a break. Look into this as soon as you can, because many care attendants have waiting lists and some councils charge for the service. You can find out more in the  home care section of our Care and support section, as well as information about  practical support for carers.

Social services may also help with meals and laundry, or provide a "sitting service" that lets your carer have a break. For more advanced care, an occupational therapist can provide a more detailed assessment of your needs at home. They can make your life much easier by arranging equipment and adapting your house.

Not all the help you need will come from social services, however. Charities and voluntary organisations can provide you with excellent care options. These include  Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Stuart Danskin is the senior cancer information nurse at Macmillan Cancer Support. "We're a charity that provides information and can help prepare people before they see a consultant," he says.

It's important to remember that people with cancer have two main needs: physical and emotional. It's with emotional care that the voluntary sector can really make a difference.

"We can help the families of people suffering from cancer," Danskin says. "We realise that it's not just the patient but the whole family that can be affected. They may not know as much about the illness as the patient in their family, or they may be worried about the care of the family that will fall to the next of kin. We help support families with information and guidance. The change in someone's immediate relationships can be huge. The husband and wife relationship, for example, can be really different. Cancer is our job, we know all about it and exactly what help you can get and where you can get support from."

Getting support

  • Read the Care and support pages for information, advice and support for carers on all aspects of caring, from financial and legal issues to taking a break from caring and accessing local services. Call the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053.
  • Care attendants.  Carers Trust is an organisation in England and Wales that helps carers by visiting homes and taking over their responsibilities for a while. Phone 0845 450 0350.
  • Meals on wheels. Contact your local council about its meals on wheels service. It will usually be able to offer financial assistance to help pay for this. Go to GOV.UK's meals at home services for details of your eligibility.
  • Benefits. Call the Benefit Enquiry Line for information on 0800 882 200 (textphone 0800 243 355) or go to the  GOV.UK benefits section.
  • Home adaptations. Your social worker may be able to refer you to an occupational therapist, who will assess your home and make changes to create a comfortable and practical place to live during your treatment. This could mean putting a shower downstairs, adding handrails around the house, or making other adjustments. 

Healthtalkonline has articles and videos on people talking about living with cancer, including practical and emotional issues.

Find out more

Medical Review: November 22, 2013

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