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Supporting someone with a brain tumour: Help for family and friends

A brain tumour diagnosis is a life changing event, not just for the individual themselves, but for the friends and family around them. On this page we’ll discuss supporting someone with a brain tumour and offer suggestions on how family and friends can help.

Happy group of people smiling and hugging, wearing Brain Tumour Charity ‘Twilight walk’ red t-shirts

Supporting someone who’s recently been diagnosed with a brain tumour can seem daunting. It’s often difficult to know what you can do to help or even what to say. 

It’s easy to feel a bit lost or helpless, but there are things you can do. Remember, sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference.

We’ve put together some ideas, practical tips and advice about supporting someone with a brain tumour, using experiences expressed within our community.

“When I was ill my friend messaged me a quote a day. It was something I looked forward to and put a smile on my face. They ranged from meaningful ones to funny ones. This might be an idea someone could use if they don’t know what to say to someone.”

April, Young Ambassador

How to support someone with a brain tumour

Here are some ideas for supporting someone with a brain tumour.

Offer practical support

A brain tumour can have a huge impact on people’s day-to-day lives and a little practical help can often go a long way.

There are a number of ways that you can support someone with a brain tumour, but it’s important to talk to them first and find out what would be best for them. Make sure you’re sensitive to their needs and appreciate it can be hard to ask for help sometimes.

Here are some ideas for practically supporting someone with a brain tumour:

Help around the house 

Ask if you can help with any household chores such as washing, ironing, putting away the shopping, mowing the lawn, etc. Consider what they might be struggling with, any tasks that take a lot of energy could be a good place to start.

Cook some meals

Help by cooking or taking over pre-prepared meals. Save them from having to do this themselves. Make sure you talk to other friends and family members to see what they are helping with. The last thing someone needs is 20 casseroles in the freezer!

Help them get around

Following a brain tumour diagnosis, many people will need to surrender their driving licence. If you can, offer to help by providing lifts when they need it. For example, to and from hospital appointments, trips to see friends or getting to the shops.

Offer childcare

This could be giving children lifts to and from school. Or, you could offer to look after them for an afternoon a week or during hospital appointments.

Help with paperwork

Offering to help with forms or making phones calls on their behalf. For example, people with a brain tumour diagnosis are often eligible for certain benefits, but this can sometimes involve lengthy forms or telephone conversations.

Learn about brain tumours

A simple way of supporting somebody else is to learn more about what they’re going through and be better prepared to help them through the changes they may experience.

Our free Brain Tumour Information Pack is great place to start when it comes to learning about brain tumours.

Talk to others in a similar situation

We have Facebook support groups for the friends, relatives and carers of anyone with a brain tumour. These groups provide a safe space for you to share your experiences, ask for advice and seek support from others in a similar position.

A person looking at the posts in one of The Brain Tumour Charity’s Online Support Groups on a mobile phone

Join our online support group

Our online support group for carers is a great place to connect with other people affected by a brain tumour and share your experiences.

Remember a brain tumour affects everyone

Make sure that you think about those closest to your loved one as well; their partners, parents, siblings, whoever may be their primary carer or immediate source of support.

This diagnosis is going to have a huge impact on them and their lives as well. It is important to not forget that they will also need your support and comfort now more than ever. Everything suggested on this page is just as important and relevant for them as well.

Video of psychologist Clare Jacobson talking about supporting someone with a brain tumour

Talking about mental health

Clare Jacobson, a specialist clinical psychologist, talks about having important conversations about mental health.

Tips from our community

“You’re allowed to feel upset and annoyed at the situation too – it’s taking its toll on you. If you don’t admit that you need help and allow yourself to have a break, then you’re just going to crumble.”

“It’s important to allow your loved one to confide their fears in you. Whatever my partner wants to talk about, even if I find the topic really difficult, I Iisten. I make sure that I go to all of their appointments and scans and I always remind them that we’re in this together!”

“Don’t be afraid to ask anything during appointments. However silly it might sound to you, every question you have is valid and I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power. When my partner was diagnosed, I threw myself into researching their illness. I read books, contacted specialists and left no stone unturned.”

“Something that has helped me is meeting other people that are going through the same thing. It makes you feel constantly validated knowing that there’s other people worrying about exactly the same things as you are and that there’s people to talk to.”

By joining one of our our Online Support Communities, you can get more tips about living with or beyond a brain tumour diagnosis from people who truly understand what you’re going through.

Find out more

Useful resources for supporting someone with a brain tumour

Here are some resources that you may find helpful. Some of these are external resources and are not in any way supported or linked to The Brain Tumour Charity. We do not recommend, and have not vetted, individual external resources. However, from feedback gathered from those who have been affected by a brain tumour, we have produced the following list of companies who may be able to help:

Box of Hugs

When you have friends or family affected by a brain tumour, we understand it’s often difficult to know how to help. A Box of Hugs can be a lovely way of letting them know you are thinking of them when you can’t be by their side. 

These beautiful gift boxes are filled with a variety of hand picked treats and include a card for you to write your own personal message. You can also get 10% off when you quote BRAIN10 at the checkout or follow the link below.

Jointly App – by Carers UK

Jointly is an app created by Carers UK. It helps carers coordinate and include a wider group of individuals in a care plan for someone. It is an interactive app which includes: a personalised profile about the individual being cared for. This includes medication lists, a messaging service to connect with other carers, tasks list that individuals can tick off, a joint calendar and contact information.

What Matters Now

‘What Matters Now’ provides a free personal website for someone whose life has been affected by a serious illness. It aims to simplify communication and help to coordinate support from friends and family. Individual’s websites can include: updates about what is happening with the individual (how they’re feeling, how treatments going, etc.), a guestbook for friends and family to leave messages, upload photos and a ‘lend a hand’ section that lets people know how best they can provide support (e.g. the best type and time of visit, and how to help caregivers e.g. around the house).

If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:
Support and Information Services
0808 800 0004 Free from landlines and mobiles
Phone lines open Mon-Fri, 09:00-17:00
A member of our Support & Information Team provides support over the phone to somebody affected by a brain tumour diagnosis

Get support

If you need someone to talk to or advice on where to get help, our Support and Information team is available by phone, email or live-chat.