As the carer of someone with cancer and dementia, you may have to help them decide about treatment or make decisions for them, so it’s important to discuss how they would like to be cared for while they still have capacity.
This ensures that you, other family members and health and care professionals understand and respect their wishes.
With your support, the person may want to make:
an Advance Statement – a document setting out their preferences about future care and treatment. It is not legally binding
an Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment (ADRT) – a legally binding document that lists treatments that they DO NOT want, eg ventilation, resuscitation
a lasting power of attorney (LPA) for health and welfare – a legally binding document that appoints one or more people to make decisions about the person’s care if they lack capacity
For more information on these, please see Sources of support, below.
If possible, it’simportant to help the person you care for to think ahead about where they will be cared for in the future.
Care at home
Most people with long-term health conditions prefer to stay at home for as long as possible.
They may be helped by home carers and/or health professionals such as district nurses or palliative care nurses (nurses who provide support at the end of life).
Make sure you take into account your own ability to cope as a carer, and how you can access support.
See Sources of support, below, for information on looking after yourself as a carer.
If you and the person you care for wish for them to stay at home, short-term or respite care may be helpful for you both. This might be to have specialised care that helps control symptoms or to give you a break from caring.
For example, they may be able to go to a day centre or have a short stay in a hospice or residential home.
The person’s GP, district nurse or palliative care nurse should be able to help you access short-term care.
Residential care/nursing homes
Residential and nursing homes offer short-term or long-term accommodation and care.
Your local authority Social Services can provide information about care homes, including what type of care they offer and any help you may be able to get with fees.
You can also talk to the person’s health professionals or social worker for more advice and information.
See Sources of support, below, for our resource on choosing a care home.
If the person you are caring for is admitted to hospital for cancer treatment, it is important that their care team knows that they have dementia and understands how it affects their needs.
If the person has a care plan, Advance Statement or ADRT, or if you have lasting power of attorney, ensure that their health professionals have a copy and are told if anything has changed.
If the person you care for becomes more unwell, they may be admitted to a hospice or a palliative care unit of the local hospital.
This may be short-term, for example to receive specialist treatment to control their symptoms, after which they return home.
Or they may be admitted at the end of life and stay there until they die, with treatment and support to keep them comfortable.
Hospices are generally smaller and quieter than hospitals and work at a gentler pace. Many encourage family and friends to visit and even stay overnight.
Hospice nurses can also visit terminally ill people at home and provide treatment to enable them to remain at home.
The person’s GP, district nurse, palliative care nurse or social worker can give you more information about hospices or hospital palliative care units.
To speak to a specialist nurse about cancer and dementia, or any other aspect of dementia, please call our free Helpline on 0800 888 6678 (Monday-Friday 9am-9pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.