Caring for someone with cancer all day, everyday

caring cancer

Caring for someone with cancer is a daylong endeavor – especially as the tumor advances -, from washing in the morning to going back to sleep at night – or at least trying to. Providing care or a cancer patient basically involves the same activities that are easily performed in good health but become difficult as a result of a weakening, crippling condition.

Those activities include:

·         Washing and bathing.

·         Dressing.

·         Hair care.

·         Nail care.

·         Oral care.

·         Bathroom needs.

·         Skin care.

·         Moving and turning.

·         Incontinence.

·         Constipation.

·         Feeding.

·         Nausea and vomiting.

·         Pain.

·         Sleep.

Washing and bathing

Cancer patients are usually bedridden, and this immobility leads to a number of complications, and poor personal hygiene is one of them. Certain cancers cause profuse sweating, making a regular bath or careful washing all the more necessary. A patient who is unable to leave the bed or wash themselves must be given a bed bath. Bed sheets should be changed as often as possible.


Favor warm, loose, comfortable clothing that is easy to put on and take off, and easy to wash as well. Cancer patients may alternately feel colder than usual or suffer from hot flushes as a side effect of treatment. Keep a hot-water bottle close to them and dress them with layers of clothing that can be peeled off, so to speak, to address these temperature fluctuations.

Hair care

A known side effect of chemotherapy is hair loss; a lesser known effect is a dry and itchy scalp. The latter can be relieved by applying moisturizing cream. If hair does not fall out, it should be washed regularly. This can be done at home with a hair washing tray.

Nail care

Have a nurse teach you how to cut nails. Either volunteers or chiropodists or podiatrists may make home visits and offer finger and toenail care.

Oral care

Sick people tend to develop mouth sores and thrush that can make it impossible to use regular toothpaste and toothbrush. A child’s toothbrush and mouth rinse could prove helpful. Otherwise, ask a doctor, nurse or dentist for advice. A dentist may have to pay a home visit, and that may cost extra.

Bathroom needs

If you’re caring for someone with cancer who is too weak to go to the bathroom, you may have to transfer them to the toilet or use products such as commodes, bedpans, or urinals. This can be awkward for both caregiver and care receiver. A nurse, home health aide, or paid caregiver may help make the situation less uncomfortable.

Skin care

Massaging and rubbing lotion prevents the skin from drying. However, refrain from massaging or rubbing lymphedemas, swollen, sore, or inflamed areas or broken skin.

Moving and turning

Bedridden patients are prone to developing bed ulcers. To avoid this, the person must be turned from one side to their back and then to the other side about every two hours if they can’t do it themselves. Similarly, you need to learn how to transfer them in and out of bed if they are immobilized.


Cancer patients may lose partial or total control of their bladder or bowel. There is a wide variety of products that can help with incontinence, such as the aforementioned bedpans, commodes, and urinals, as well as adult briefs, pads, underwear, and catheters.


Both the disease and the treatment can lead a cancer patient to lose their appetite or their ability to eat properly. People who can’t manage solids may benefit from soft foods or a liquid diet, which has the advantage of keeping the mouth moistened. Keep in mind that lack of appetite and loss of weight are normal aspects of cancer.


People who don’t eat well, can’t move around, or take certain medications are susceptible to constipation. Laxatives, suppositories, enemas, increased fluid intake and eating more fruit and fiber-rich foods may help.

Nausea and vomiting

Taking anti-sickness medicines, avoiding fatty and fried foods, eating cold foods to avoid smell, eating small meals and snacks and drinking small amounts of fizzy beverages, and sucking on peppermint sweets may improve the nausea and vomiting characteristic of advanced cancer.


Cancer does not always cause severe pain, and when it does it can usually be controlled with painkillers. The downside of pain drugs is that they may have side effects and the potential of being addictive. Some patients resort to alternative pain management methods such as yoga, meditation, or acupuncture, but your mileage may vary.


Cancer patients may spend a lot of time in bed but not necessarily sleeping – or at least not at night. They may sleep a lot or be drowsy during the day and not be able to sleep at night. This may mean that an adjustment in medication dosing is required; ask the doctor about it. The patient may also have trouble relaxing; reading, listening to music, meditating, or having a warm, milky drink or herbal tea in the late evening may help induce sleep. Also make sure mattresses and pillows should be comfortable.

If you’re caring for someone with cancer, do not hesitate to ask a doctor whenever you’re in doubt.  

Related Read:

Dealing With Cancer Pain: Management And Treatment Possibilities