- Cancer Information
- Caring for someone with cancer
- Your role as a carer
- Practical support
Carers often provide practical care. This can include doing household chores, preparing meals and providing transport. If the person you care for has difficulty moving around because of the cancer or effects of treatment, you may have to make some changes to the home.
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Treatment can weaken the body’s immune system, so it is important to follow good hygiene and food safety practices. Wash your hands before preparing food and take special care when handling raw meat, fish and chicken.
You may notice the person you care for is experiencing changes in appetite or difficulties chewing and swallowing. They may be experiencing nausea (with or without vomiting), or they may have mouth or throat sores that make it painful to eat. Cancer treatment can also affect the sense of taste and smell.
At times, the person may not be able to tolerate even their favourite foods. While you probably want them to eat well to stay strong during treatment, becoming overly stressed about their lack of appetite can increase their anxiety, so gentle encouragement is best. Talk to the treatment team if you’re worried about weight loss.
Nausea and poor appetite can last for several months after treatment ends. A dietitian, doctor or nurse can provide advice on a suitable eating plan and medicines that can help manage side effects such as nausea or a sore mouth.
See our tips and recipes. You can also find them in Cancer Council’s Nutrition and Cancer booklet – call 13 11 20 for a free copy or download it from this page. You can also read more about taste and smell changes and mouth health and cancer treatment, or download the fact sheets from this page.
|Family and friends often offer to ease your load by preparing meals. Let them know what types of food to prepare, and why hygiene and food safety are especially important at this time.|
Managing the home environment
If the person you are caring for becomes unwell or frail during treatment, you may need to make the home safer for them.
Simple measures include rearranging furniture to make access easier, and removing loose rugs and other tripping hazards. Talk to the occupational therapist on the treatment team about other changes you can make – for example, putting handrails on the stairs or in the bathroom, or using a chair in the shower. If you need to lift the person you’re caring for, or help them get into or out of bed or a chair, ask a nurse or physiotherapist to show you how to do so safely. They may suggest you hire or buy aids to make lifting easier.
You can ask family and friends for assistance with housework or arrange help through community services. This will free up time for you to spend on caring or other responsibilities. Talk to the nurse or social worker on the treatment team or get in touch with Cancer Council 13 11 20 to find out how to access this support.
Providing personal care
A person may need help with bathing, toileting and dressing at various times during and after the course of treatment.
Some carers feel uncomfortable doing this care themselves, particularly for their parents or adult children. If this is the case for you, you can arrange visits from care workers who can help with these tasks. Talk to the nurse or social worker on your treatment team or call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to find out how to access this support.
Tina Chivende, Social Worker, Cancer Psychosocial Service, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, ACT; Gabrielle Asprey, Telephone Support Group Facilitator, Cancer Council NSW; Dr Ben Britton, Senior Clinical and Health Psychologist, Calvary Mater Newcastle and John Hunter Hospital, and Conjoint Lecturer, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, NSW; Valmai Goodwin, Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council QLD; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Zoe Mitchell, Senior Social Worker, Palliative Care, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Amber Rose, Consumer; Carolina Simpson, Policy and Development Officer, Carers NSW.
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