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Helping your parents cope

Although you may have been living fairly independently from your parents, the changes in your life that a cancer experience brings may mean that you will turn to your parents more often than you used to.

If your parents are in good health, and they live close by or are able to spend extended periods of time with you and your family, they might be a source of great support for you. They may be able to help around the house, run errands, look after your children or go to appointments with you. Your biggest challenge may be working with your parents to make them understand how they can be helpful without making you feel helpless or like a child again.

If your parents’ health is poor and you’ve been caring for them, you may need extra help while you’re in treatment. There are no easy answers for planning what’s best for your entire family in this situation. You may feel sad or even guilty that you can’t look after your parents as you have in the past or as you would like to, but it’s important to focus on your own health and care.

Some tips for helping your parents cope include:

  • Make the most of the time you have with your parents. Talk about how much you mean to each other. Express all your feelings – not just love but also anxiety, sadness and anger. Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. It’s better to share your feelings rather than hide them. If you or your parents are having trouble communicating, a counsellor may help.
  • Keep parents informed about your situation. It can be one of life’s most painful experiences to be the parent of a sick child – even if that child is an adult. Being informed can help them cope and make them feel a part of your journey. Let them know what decisions you have made about your treatment and care.
  • Let parents know how they can help. Be as specific as you can about what is most helpful. Most parents want to help but aren’t sure how.
  • Respect the right of your parents to agree or disagree with decisions you’re making at this time, but make it clear that they are your decisions to make.
  • Turn to other family members and friends for help with looking after your parents if necessary. Community agencies may also be able to help.


Dr Paul Demers The cost of asbestos-related cancers

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