how to cope with dementia and cancer


Registered User
Jul 6, 2007
My mother has vascular dementia and is aged 76. She was diagnosed when she was 70. Just before Christmas she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was a heavy smoker for many years. I do not know anyone who has cancer and dementia. There must be others out there. It is difficult because she does not know this and if she did it could set off a major TIAs and she would forget anycase. I am liaising with medical staff etc as next of kin and getting information direct which is good, but it is not easy. They have told me it is terminal and they cannot treat the cancer because she is so frail and I agree. All the information you are given is for treatment etc but nothing about cancer and dementia. Can anyone help?


Registered User
Mar 7, 2004
Sorry forgetmenot, cannot help but wanted you to know that you have support here on the forum.

I am sure someone will be along with practical advice. Take care of yourself whilst you are looking after mum. She needs you more than ever, to ease the distress of these two illnesses.

I do so feel for you.

Grannie G

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 3, 2006
Hello forgetmenot

I can only recall one member who cared for a relative with both cancer and dementia, but I can`t remember who.

I understand that your mother is too frail for invasive treatment for cancer, I just hope she will be able to receive adequate pain relief.

I do hope others on the Forum can offer more help, all I can offer is sympathy.

Love xx


Registered User
Aug 9, 2007
Hi Forgetmenot

We were not certain whether my Mum has bowel cancer as well as VAD. It is possibly just IBS however we refused any testing for Mum that would normally be carried out on a "fit" person due to the distress it would cause her.

My Dad died from cancer after almost 5 years of radiotherapy and chemotherapy and various other treatments. He endured months of ill health.

We made the decision that any tests would be stressful for Mum who would not understand(plus embarassing) and that the strain of hospital admissions for tests and treatments would rapidly worsen her dementia (which we have had experience of when she was treated for UTI and ulcer perforation in hospital pre home admission)

Our request was for palliative non-interventionist care for her. Although symptoms continue so does her dementia and she is now suffering TIA's regularly and noticeabley without exacerbation of the other symptoms so it is thought likely it is IBS. However as this happened 3 years ago with palliative care and pain releif she has had a reasonable time and enjoyed herself without losing too much of what is remaining.

It is hard to know what is the best thing to do.



Tender Face

Account Closed
Mar 14, 2006
NW England
Hi Forgetmenot .... my mother has battled cancer some 20 years (still undergoes routine checks) and last year we were were faced with a 'scare' knowing full well that even if we even secured a diagnosis (even some of the diagnostics being too much for her now) there would be no option for treatment.

What WAS important was to understand the best palliative care should malignancy be proven ..... as Sylvia says - there is an issue about pain relief if the patient cannot communicate their degree of pain ...... Only advice I can give is to contact the Palliative Care Team in your hospital or Community (via GP surgery). Cancer organisations may also be able to help with advice about the best care for mum - as well as offering you support - ..... MacMillan have an excellent website and a forum ( which includes references to dementia and cancer .......

I know all I hope for my mum is that if her cancer returns again her dementia will 'save' her from the pain of knowing, let alone some of the suffering .... and in turn may also save her from the worst ravages that AD may bring .... Hard to even think which of the two beasts is the hardest to cope with .... let alone that one may provide solace from the other?:(

With huge love and sympathy, Karen, x


Registered User
Aug 29, 2006
SW Scotland
Hi Forgetmenot

I've no experience that would help you, I just wanted to offer my sympathy and support.

I'm sure that your mother will be kept comfortable as the cancer develops, but it's going to be hard for you to live with. Please remember that there is always support for you here.



Registered User
Aug 9, 2005
Dear ForgetMeNot,
Nothing to add but my sincerest sympathy. Please come to TP whenever you need support. I hope and pray your Mum will receive the best care possible - and I know you will be ensuring that happens.

Take good care of yourself too.



Registered User
Jul 6, 2007
thank you all for your messsages of support even if you have not had the experience of cancer and dementia. It is good to know others are thinking of me. My two aunts have decided to come down and see my mother. They live over 200 miles away and have not visited yet in the past year when I moved her down to a care home nearer to me. It was a good decision to move her as it would have been worse for me if she was still 200 plus miles away. I have very mixed feelings


Registered User
Mar 21, 2003
Hi Forgetmenot,

I would suggest putting an email together and sending it to all the cancer support groups or making some calls. Someone close to me has cancer and I've done a lot of research. I'm sure one of these resources could help so no harm in contacting them. MacMillan have been absolutely brilliant and knowledgeable. You should not have to cope with this alone. /selfhelpandsupport

Freephone 0808 800 1234 (Mon – Fri 9am to 7pm)
CancerBACUP is a national cancer information charity. Their helpline is staffed by specialised cancer nurses who can answer medical questions as well as provide information and support. The website is interactive and offers information tailored to individual needs and provides information about their network of local information centres where you can get support on a drop-in-basis. CancerBACUP produces a large range of booklet and fact sheets which are available on request.

Freephone: 0808 808 1010 (Mon – Fri 9.00am to 4.30pm)
Tenovus provide support, care, information and education on all aspects of cancer for patients, families and the public across the UK. The helpline is staffed by experienced cancer nurses and supported by social workers, welfare rights officers and counsellors. They also have a range of literature available free of charge.

NHS Direct
Local rate telephone: 0845 46 47 ( 24 hrs )
The NHSdirect offer advice and health information on the phone by nurses. They can advise what to do if you or your family are feeling ill; on particular health conditions; about local healthcare services, such as doctors, dentists or late night opening pharmacies and self help and support organizations. The website provides a list of reliable health information resources, an online encyclopaedia, self-help guides and a directory of local, regional and national NHS services.

Cancer Research UK
Freephone: 0800 22 62 37 or 020 70618355 ( Mon – Fri 9am to 5 pm)
e-mail: Can be sent from the website ( 'contact us' page)
Cancer Research is the largest volunteer-supported cancer research organization in the world. Their phone line is manned by qualified cancer information nurses who can provide medical information, cancer statistics and help you find a clinical trial. The 'cancerhelp' website has information about cancer and cancer care written specially for patients and their families whilst the 'cancerresearchuk' website describes research, fundraising and has general cancer information. They publish information leaflets and statistics.

I hope this helps and as others have suggested, you will get a lot of emotional help and support here.

Kindest Regards


Registered User
Feb 3, 2008
west mids
hi I too am struggling as the full time carer of my 79yr old mother whose in the final stages of ovarian cancer and also is suffering with vascular dementia. At the moment everyone is just treating the symptoms as they arise. But at this point in time mom is now having TIA's at least once a week. So I am afraid I can not explain this stress this puts on me, despite support from the GP and Macmillian nurses, as no one can really help, besides treat mom to the best of their ability.But there is very little information on the combination of the 2 diseases when they are combined.
You just have to do your best.