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Seeking support

Read below for types of support services you can access if you are dealing with advanced cancer.

When you are referred to palliative care or while you are having palliative care, you may have a range of emotions. Many people feel shocked, fearful, sad, anxious or angry. Others feel relief or a sense of inner peace.

Some people have ongoing depression after receiving a diagnosis of advanced cancer. Signs of depression include trouble thinking clearly, losing interest in things you used to enjoy, or changes to sleep patterns and appetite. If you think you may be depressed, it is important to talk to your doctor, as counselling and medicines can help. For information about coping with depression and anxiety, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or visit beyondblue.org.au. For 24-hour crisis support, call Lifeline 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.

You may find that while some people you know are supportive, others may avoid you or not know what to say. This can be difficult, and you could feel rejected, isolated or upset. Advanced cancer can mean changes to your lifestyle – at some point, you may need to leave work, stop driving or give up other activities that are important to you. These changes can cause further sadness or stress.

It will probably help to talk to someone. Your partner, family and close friends can offer support, or you might prefer to talk to:

  • members of your palliative care or treatment team
  • a counsellor, social worker or psychologist
  • your religious leader or spiritual adviser
  • a telephone support group or peer support program
  • Cancer Council 13 11 20.

For many people, an illness can be a financial strain. This may be caused by extra out-of-pocket costs or from loss of income. For example, if you need to stay at home more, household bills may increase, or you may buy more prepackaged meals to save your time and energy for other tasks. You may need to pay for child care, transport, medicines and equipment. If you live alone and have limited support from family or friends, you may need to pay for private services, such as nursing, cleaning or shopping. Research your options ahead of time so you know what assistance is available. These extra costs can cause you and your family additional stress, but support may be available:

  • Ask your social worker about any financial or practical assistance available to you or your carer, and apply for it as soon as possible. You may be eligible for assistance from the government, volunteer bodies, church groups or your local council.
  • Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 for free, confidential and independent financial counselling.
  • Cancer Council SA may be able to organise legal and financial advice. Contact Cancer Council 13 11 20 to find out what services are available in your area and whether you are eligible.
  • Talk to your superannuation fund about applying for an early release of your superannuation savings on the grounds of severe financial hardship or terminal illness.
  • Ask your utility company, loan provider or local council about how they might be able to help you manage payment of your bills or loans.

Download our booklet ‘Cancer and Your Finances’

The Department of Human Services (Centrelink) offers a range of payments that may be available to people with cancer and their carers. These include:

  • Sickness Allowance
  • Disability Support Pension
  • Carer Allowance and Carer Payment
  • Bereavement Payment and Bereavement Allowance.

You may also be eligible for the Pensioner Concession Card or the Health Care Card, which can reduce your expenses. Centrelink benefits may be income and asset tested or have other eligibility requirements. For more information, visit humanservices.gov.au or talk to your social worker.

Equipment and aids – Talk to your palliative care team about equipment and aids that will help you remain independent. Independent Living Centres Australia offers advice on a range of products and services to help with aspects of day-to-day living, including mobility, sleeping, eating and transport (call 1300 885 886 or visit ilcaustralia.org.au). Depending on where you live and what your needs are, there may be funding available to help with these items.

Home help and transport – Contact your palliative care team, local council, My Aged Care or Cancer Council 13 11 20 to ask about help with meals, housework or transport. The availability and cost of services vary across Australia.

My Aged Care – An Australian Government site with information about aged care options, available services including the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, respite care, assessment and eligibility. Visit myagedcare.gov.au or call 1800 200 422.

Carer Gateway – An Australian Government service providing practical information and resources for carers, information about respite care, and links with local support services. Visit carergateway.gov.au or call 1800 422 737.

Palliative Care Australia – This national peak body and its state and territory member organisations work to raise awareness of palliative and end-of-life care, and to improve the understanding and availability of services across Australia. It also provides information for people living with a life-limiting illness and their families, carers and health professionals. Visit palliativecare.org.au to download resources and find links to state and territory organisations. You can call Palliative Care SA on 08 8271 1643.

This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed May 2019 by the following expert content reviewers: Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director, Palliative Care, Northern Sydney Local Health District Cancer & Palliative Care Network, and Conjoint Professor, Northern Clinical School, University of Sydney, NSW; Richard Austin, Social Worker, Specialist Palliative Care Service, TAS; Sondra Davoren, Manager, Treatment and Supportive Care, McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, VIC; A/Prof Brian Le, Director of Palliative Care, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre – The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Cathy McDonnell, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Concord Centre for Palliative Care, Concord Hospital, NSW; Natalie Munro, Team Leader, PalAssist, QLD; Penelope Murphy, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Kate Reed, Nurse Practitioner Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia; Merrilyn Sim, Consumer.