When you're caring for someone who’s having treatment 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.

Grooming

  • A woman with cancer might feel more confident and in control when she takes care of how she looks. 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.
  • For someone 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 she has low levels of platelets in her blood.
  • Make a mouth rinse 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 have alcohol or chemicals that may irritate her mouth.

Bathing

  • Keep the water temperature comfortable if you help her bathe. 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 a bath or shower and at 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 to fit better, or think about buying a few new clothes while she’s having treatment. If her skin is dry or sore, offer clothing in soft fabrics like cotton. Skip uncomfortable, tight-fitting clothes.
  • Make sure she wears sunscreen and hats outside.

Eating

  • It's normal for someone to not feel hungry during treatment. If that’s the case, serve her a bigger meal when her appetite is good. For most people, that’s in 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 tasty 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 close.
  • Keep food nearby, so she can eat when she wants. Try keeping a snack pack of applesauce or pudding and a spoon next to her 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.

Activities

  • Take a walk together when you can to help ease her sleep problems, mood, fatigue, and other side effects. If she needs to stay in bed, help her do exercises that her health team suggests.
  • Show her deep-breathing exercises and other ways to relax that can help her deal with the stress and anxiety of cancer. Listening to music and spending time with loved ones are other stress busters.
  • Help her set up a daily routine that can balance rest and activity. Plan activities for the times when she has the most energy. Try to weed out the less important things so she can do what she enjoys most. She may not be able to do everything she wants during treatment, but she can still have a social life. Help with the planning, so if she asks, she can go out and visit with friends when she can.

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