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Cancer: A Caregiver's Checklist for Daily Care

When you're caring for someone who is being treated for cancer, you want to let her know you're there to help. You’ll also want to let her decide when she needs your help. Use this checklist to make daily care easier.


  • Taking care of how she looks can help a woman with cancer feel more confident and in control. If she wants, help her put on makeup and fix her hair, even if she’s in bed all day. Keep her favorite lotions and grooming supplies handy.
  • For safety, use an electric shaver. Men should avoid aftershaves that have alcohol, which might irritate their skin.
  • If she is getting chemotherapy, remind her to brush her teeth after she eats, to avoid infection. Offer waxed dental floss, a soft-bristle toothbrush, and fluoride toothpaste without whitening or tartar control. Talk to her doctor about flossing if her gums bleed and her platelet count is low.
  • Make a mouthwash by mixing 1/2 teaspoon baking soda with 1 cup of water for her to use after each brush. Don't use store-bought mouthwash. It can contain alcohol or chemicals that may irritate her mouth.


  • Keep the water temperature comfortable if you help her with bathing. Be gentle when you wash and pat dry. Dry skin can be a side effect of treatment, so smooth on a water-based cream after bathing and other times during the day. Let her do it herself if she wants, but help with hard-to-reach areas.
  • Her scalp may be sensitive if treatment is making her hair fall out. Make sure she has a mild shampoo and soft hairbrush.

Practical Tips

  • If she has lost weight, have her clothes altered, or consider getting a small wardrobe while she undergoes treatment. If her skin is dry or sore, offer clothes in soft fabrics like cotton. Skip uncomfortable, tight-fitting clothes.
  • Make sure she wears sunscreen and hats outside.


  • It's normal to lose your appetite during treatment. If she does, serve a bigger meal when her appetite is best. This is most likely the morning. Or serve five or six smaller meals instead of three big ones.
  • Keep liquid meal replacements handy for when she doesn't want to eat. Soft and cold foods like protein milkshakes and Popsicles are also tasty, healthy options.
  • Offer lots of liquids, especially on days she doesn't eat. Clear soups and juices, sports drinks, and weak tea without caffeine are good. Keep a water bottle nearby.
  • Keep food nearby, so he can eat when he wants. Try keeping a snack pack of applesauce or pudding and a spoon next to his bed.
  • Find ways to add protein to meals: Sprinkle cheese on vegetables and eggs. Use milk instead of water in hot cereals and soups. Add nonfat instant dry milk to drinks.

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