When someone you love is going through the unthinkable, you don’t always know how to help. However, the last thing you should do is let your fear of doing or saying the wrong thing scare you into inaction. If someone you care about is going through cancer treatment and you want to help them out, here are five simple things that you can do.
1. Deliver Meals
Freezer and table-ready meals are the go-to when someone you love is going through a hard time. After all, we all know how hard it is to get dinner on the table when life is overwhelming. Dropping off meals that can be popped in the oven for an easy dinner is a great way to help your loved one retain a sense of normalcy at home. Make sure you keep in mind that cancer treatment affects a patient’s appetite and diet. Rather than catering to your loved one’s tastes, focus your cooking on keeping the family fed.
2. Offer Babysitting
If your loved one has children, offer to take the kids off their hands for a night. A kid-free night gives parents an opportunity to reconnect outside the world of oncologists and chemotherapy. It’s also a great chance to take the children out for a fun activity that takes their minds off their parent’s illness.
If you have the time, handling pickups and drop-offs for school, extracurricular activities, and social outings is a wonderful way to help your loved one’s children maintain routines during their parent’s illness. You can learn more about children’s needs during a parent’s cancer treatment from the Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology.
3. Pay for In-Home Help
In home help sounds intense but it can be as simple as a dog walker! From mopping the floors to walking the dog, everyday chores become a monumental feat when you’re exhausted from cancer treatment. With the added responsibility of caregiving and medical coordination, it’s not always possible for a spouse to pick up the slack. Ensure your loved one has consistent help at home by paying for in-home services. A weekly cleaning service keeps the household running, a dog walker or pet sitter keeps cats’ and dogs’ needs met, and a lawn care service keeps the property manicured and the city or HOA off your loved one’s back.
If hiring help isn’t in your budget, offer to personally help with these home-related to-dos. At the very least, dropping by for an hour a week to make sure your loved one’s home is clean and organized will take a weight off their shoulders. As a bonus, doing a round of decluttering and cleaning with ingredients like lemons, sea salt, and sage may create a naturally peaceful living environment.
4. Give Treatment Gifts
Cancer treatment is grueling, but it’s also kind of boring. Chemotherapy involves long periods of sitting in a treatment center as medication is delivered via IV. Gifts that make the experience a little more pleasant are a welcome treat. Simple things like a soft pillows and blankets, quiet activities (like a tablet stocked with movies), small crafts, or a subscription to a music streaming or audiobook service are all great ideas. What Next also suggests more items to bring to chemo for comfort and entertainment.
5. Donate Money
Giving money to a family member or friend feels strange. After all, money troubles aren’t considered appropriate conversation fodder in most circles. However, the harsh reality is that cancer can be financially devastating. As STAT reports, many cancer survivors exhaust their savings to fund medical expenses, and up to one-third have to turn to family and friends for financial support. When a person’s financial health suffers, so does their physical health: In one study, cancer patients who filed for bankruptcy had a 79 percent higher mortality rate than cancer patients who remained financially solvent. If you can afford it, give money with no strings attached, and ask friends and family to do the same.
These five simple suggestions are all great ways to lend a hand to a loved one with cancer. However, sometimes the best thing you can offer is an open ear. Whether your loved one wants to talk about the challenges of cancer or talk about anything else, don’t underestimate the value of simply being present, patient, and compassionate during this difficult time.