Cancer runs in families

Cancer in family and friends

Help for those who help

Cancer never affects the sick person alone. Relatives are the most important support in this situation, but they also suffer and are often just as emotionally burdened themselves. Often it is not perceived that way. Therefore, support can also be helpful for relatives in coping with this task.


Relatives of cancer patients play a dual role. On the one hand they are the most important source of emotional support for those affected, but on the other hand they too are concerned about the organization of everyday life, about the future and possibly fear of losing the loved one. As a rule, however, they only give themselves the first role. They are often asked: “How is your wife / your husband / your mother / etc.?” Hardly anyone asks how they are doing themselves. The sick family member becomes the central theme of the life of the relatives. Your own problems and worries take a back seat because they are viewed as meaningless. Often relatives no longer pursue their own hobbies and interests, e.g. Partly for organizational reasons, because there is simply no time for it, but sometimes also because they then feel guilty about the sick person.

The life situation changed in this way can lead to relatives being heavily burdened themselves or even becoming ill. It is not uncommon for them to be overexcited, suffer from insomnia and develop depressive symptoms - the whole range of psychosomatic illnesses. However, there are strategies and offers of help to mitigate or avoid this.

Strengthen relatives - improve coping with illness

Seeing your own situation realistically, naming burdens, recognizing your own limits and, above all, perceiving your own needs and desires: all of this can help to avoid permanent excessive demands. An open conversation, also about your own fears and worries, can be very relieving. Are relatives allowed to “bother” the sick family members with their own thoughts, feelings, limits and needs?

Patients keep saying that it is very comforting for them when they hear and feel that they are not alone with their worries and fears, but that their loved ones are worried and fears as well. Often it is easier to find common solutions in conversation.

Even friends often see it as a great vote of confidence when a relative confides in them in this situation.

In some places there are special groups for relatives. The focus there is on exchange, mutual support and encouragement. A frequent topic is also recognizing and maintaining one's own limits, which is particularly difficult.

Cancer advice centers and psycho-oncologists are of course also available to all relatives. After a few one-on-one interviews, several family members can come together there for a conversation. The presence of a “neutral person” makes it easier to address things that could not be discussed in the family alone.

For some relatives it is also sufficient that they can continue to pursue their sport, their hobby or some other kind of compensation.

In any case, it is good for patients and relatives alike if everyone involved is on the same level of information. B. the important discussions with the doctors are held together.

What are relatives entitled to?

In addition to the above-mentioned support options, rehabilitation benefits are provided in Germany by statutory health insurances, pension and accident insurances. In principle, relatives of cancer patients can also take advantage of such offers. However, there is no legal entitlement to this. Therefore, in individual cases, together with those affected, doctors and the rehabilitation team, advice must be given as to which path to take:

Independent rehabilitation measures can be applied for for the relatives in order to maintain their ability to work and to prevent psychosomatic illnesses.

The relatives can accompany the sick person to the rehabilitation measure, but then often have to finance their stay themselves.

Let the cancer advice center and your health insurance company advise you on these questions and ask about special offers for relatives.

Additional information

The "blue advice" of the German Cancer Aid contain comprehensive information on offers of help for relatives and social benefits.

The advice centers of the cancer societies help answer medical and social law questions. They are also a competent contact when looking for suitable self-help groups and psychosocial care offers.

If you are looking for a suitable rehabilitation facility, you can find it at www.reha-servicestellen.de, broken down by service provider and region. The rehabilitation service centers help to determine the need for assistance, to find the responsible facility and to submit an application.

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