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Family Caregivers in Cancer (PDQ®)

Patient Version

Who Is the Caregiver?

Family caregivers may be spouses, partners, children, relatives, or friends who help the patient with activities of daily living and health care needs at home.

Many cancer patients today receive part of their care at home. Hospital stays are shorter than they used to be, and there are now more treatments that don't need an overnight hospital stay or can be given outside of the hospital. People with cancer are living longer and many patients want to be cared for at home as much as possible. This care is often given by family caregivers. These caregivers may be spouses, partners, children, relatives, or friends.

The family caregiver works with the health care team and has an important role in improving the patient's health and quality of life. Today, family caregivers do many things that used to be done in the hospital or doctor's office by health care providers. Caregiving includes everyday tasks such as helping the patient with medicines, doctor visits, meals, schedules, and health insurance matters. It also includes giving emotional and spiritual support, such as helping the patient deal with feelings and making hard decisions.

It is important that the family caregiver is a part of the team right from the start.

The family caregiver has the very important job of watching for changes in the patient's medical condition while giving long-term care at home. Family caregivers can help plan treatment, make decisions, and carry out treatment plans all through the different parts of treatment.

This summary is about adult family caregivers in cancer.

  • Updated: August 1, 2013