CARING for a family member or friend with a terminal illness may not be a burden, but it can be a significant weight to carry, according to the Cancer Council NSW’s Tina Pidcock.
“It’s a huge responsibility to care for a loved one,” said Ms Pidcock, the region’s palliative care community program co-ordinator.
“It’s an honour and a privilege, but it can still be heavy, stressful and cause anxiety.
“It is important to look after yourself as well.”
The Cancer Council has received funding from Hunter New England Area Health Service to trial a program that would train volunteers to provide respite for palliative carers for about two hours a fortnight.
Ms Pidcock said volunteers would not be involved with medical care, but provide the patient with companionship and conversation.
“We want to try and give the palliative carers an opportunity to get out and have a break for a few hours and hopefully come back a little refreshed,” she said. “They may be able to go and do something that was part of their normal life before caring for a loved one.”
Ms Pidcock said a palliative carer’s role could be physically stressful and emotionally and mentally exhausting.
“With palliative care people want to be the be all and end all for everything, but they need to understand that they don’t have to be everything all the time,” she said. “It’s hard emotionally to face the fact that you are caring for someone who will eventually pass away.
“Then you start to think ‘If this is how I feel, imagine how the patient feels’.
“People are allowed to feel sorry for themselves but because you’re a carer, you can’t wallow in pity.”
Ms Pidcock said the Cancer Council had identified access to palliative care as important in improving the quality of life of patients, carers and their families facing a life-limiting cancer diagnosis.
While 70 per cent of people say they want to die at home, only 16 per cent do.
Details: call 4923 0700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org before February 29.
Volunteers will receive training and support. The program will start in April.