“What can I do to help?” Cancer caregivers - family and friends of cancer patients - want to provide meaningful support but often times are at a loss for what to say or do. In fact, there are a lot of different things you can do to help your loved one through chemotherapy (“chemo”) and other treatments like radiation. For instance, greeting cards and flowers can be a great way to help brighten a patient’s day. However, many people have asked us “how can I do more?” We like the idea of putting together a homemade personalized ‘chemo care package’ to show your thinking of him or her.
Chemo care packages are packages that contain different items – both for comfort and entertainment – that your loved one might need and want during their treatments.
We have collected a list of items to include in your chemo care package that could help a patient before, during and after treatment based on the unexpected side effects from the treatment that we have seen with our friends and family. Because different people react differently to treatments, we have tried to provide an extensive list of options.
Personal Comfort Items to Include:
1. Warm and Comfy Clothing
Hospitals can often be very cold and chemotherapy can increase one’s sensitivity to extreme temperatures because of a number of side effects including neuropathy – a type of nerve damage, weight loss and low blood platelets. Below are a few items to include to help your loved one stay comfortable and warm.
a. Headwear (such as Scarves and Hats)
Different types of headwear like colorful scarves and soft and stylish hats can be a great way to stay warm and feel good! Also, these items can help protect patients from exposure to the sun during treatments that may leave them extra vulnerable to ultraviolet damage.
b. Soft and Warm Blankets
Another great option for your loved one to stay warm during treatment and at home is by making or buying a soft blanket.
c. Warm Socks or Slippers
A third way to combat the cold is a good pair of warm socks or slippers that are cozy and perfect for lounging or treatment rooms. We recommend Dr.Scholl’s Spa Socks, which are soft and odor-free socks with a non-binding comfort top that won’t restrict blood circulation. It’s important that nothing is too snug. Slippers are also a great option for trips to the bathroom and for walking around the room.
2. Icy Cool Towel
Because of the increased sensitivity to extreme temperatures and frequent fluctuations in body temperature, heat can trigger or worsen hot flashes and increase sweating. Hence, it is great to to have an icy cool towel that stays cool for up to four hours to help relieve the heat.
3. Gentle Skin Moisturizers and Soaps
Dry and sensitive skin is a common side effect of both chemotherapy and radiation treatments both during treatment and after they are complete. Because of this it is important for patients to use gentle products that will help prevent irritations and rashes. We recommend including various types of gentle moisturizers especially ointments or creams rather than lotions because the thicker consistency tends to be better at preventing skin dehydration. It is also recommended to look for hypoallergenic products that don’t have strong fragrances since strong smells can also be irritating.
4. Lip Balm
Similar to the skin, lips can become very dry so it is important to have a richly hydrating lip balm. Many dermatologists recommend using lip balms, with ingredients such as shea butter, petrolatum, or glycerin.
5. BPA-Free Travel Water Bottle
In addition to keeping your skin hydrated it is equally as important to remain hydrated throughout the treatment period. Because cancer treatments like chemotherapy can induce nausea and vomiting it can be hard to stay hydrated. Including a travel water bottle so your loved one has something to sip on throughout the day can help control dehydration.
6. Caffeine-Free Tea (like Peppermint, Chamomile, Ginger and Lemon Tea)
An upset stomach can be an unfortunate side effect of chemotherapy. Ginger and lemon teas can be helpful to soothe upset stomachs and help manage treatment-induced nausea. Also, we recommend making sure the tea is caffeine-free like mint and chamomile flavors to prevent any major distractions in one’s sleep cycle. Some doctors even recommend limiting the amount of green or white tea because, while they are packed with antioxidant photochemical, the antioxidants might interfere with the desired effects of chemotherapy.
7. Mouth Aids
Patients undergoing chemotherapy frequently complain about a “metal mouth,” or a metallic and dry mouth after treatment. Eating citrus candies and fruits are a popular way of counteracting this common side effect. You can also try Ginger Chews that can help with both “metal mouth” and nausea. For those with painful mouth sores or ulcers that usually appear 1 to 2 weeks after some types of chemo begin, it is recommended to use over-the-counter toothpastes (avoid whitening toothpastes that may contain hydrogen peroxide), oral rinses and gels made from Biotene, which may help alleviate the discomfort.
8. Eye Mask, Ear Plugs, and Neck Pillow
Often chemotherapy treatments can make patients tired or sleepy leading to napping during the day and thus lead to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night. Anything that can make sleeping easier and more comfortable is great! An eye mask, earplugs and neck pillow will help patients fall asleep and stay asleep.
9. Pajamas or Comfortable Loungewear
During treatment you want to be comfortable! Drawstring sweat pants and button down shirts are ideal for access to your chest and either a short sleeve or loose sleeve that can be rolled up for access to your arm. Stay on the lookout for special products that we will be rolling out soon to help with this!
10. Unscented Wet Wipes and Hand Sanitizer
During treatment your immune system is lowered and patients are more susceptible to infection so having wet wipes and hand sanitizer that do not have odors can help keep the germs away, especially if you are going in and out of the hospital frequently for treatment.
11. Salon Gift Cards
A common side effect of chemotherapy is hair loss so for patients preparing to undergo chemotherapy treatment, a hair salon gift card will help them gradually adjust to their shorter hair. For instance, frequent trims or style changes can help camouflage hair loss and ease the transition of losing hair.
12. Silk or Fleece Pillow Case
Patients undergoing chemotherapy with newly bald scalps can be very sensitive, especially since skin is can be more sensitive in general as a side effect of chemotherapy. Hence, including soft pillow covers could help with the sensitivity while lying in bed.
13. PICC Line Covers
A common way to receive chemotherapy is through a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter). A PICC line is a semi-permanent IV that you can get to avoid having to a new IV for each treatment. You can learn more on why patients get a PICC line in a great blog post by one of our nurse ambassadors. Care+Wear makes an ultra-soft, antimicrobial, reusable PICC line cover for patients living with PICC lines. On our website, you can check out our fashionable covers with wide range of colors from Fuchsia, Mango, Marine, Lime, Black and Slate. Not only can it help cover the PICC line while you’re not receiving treatment but the colors could help you feel more like yourself while you are undergoing treatment! You can learn more on PICC lines and the Care+Wear PICC line covers on our blog!
Often while undergoing treatment and going to and from doctors appointments there is a lot of time to sit and wait. We recommend including a few magazines to help the time go by faster.
9. iTunes Gift Card
Musical is always a great gift! An iTunes gift card is perfect because your loved one can pick what music he or she wants to listen to. They can also use it to buy audio books, ebooks, movies and tv shows.
10. Streaming Video Service Subscription
Giving a subscription for a video streaming service like Netflix can also provide more entertainment during what could be a few hours of infusion during each treatment session.
11. Sudoku Puzzle Book
Sudoku puzzles can help patients stay busy during treatment and keep their mind sharp!
Including a journal to record their thoughts, or write down any questions they may have for their doctor may also be helpful. It is also great to have to keep a diet or symptom journal so you can be sure to share any concerns with your nurse or doctor.
More on Care+Wear:
Care+Wear is a startup that designs innovative healthwear to create more positive and effective healing experiences for patients everywhere. Our goal is to bring innovation and design into the healthcare industry. We believe that you fully deserve a right to be seen as person first, and as a patient second.
If you have any further questions, feel free to contact us for more information. Let’s get back to living!
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