Watching a loved one go through chemotherapy can be a heart-wrenching experience. At times, you’re likely to feel at a loss as to what to do, and supporting them as they undergo chemo can seem like a terrifying ordeal.
Nausea, weight loss or gain and hair loss are just a few of the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy. The experienced side effects place a lot of strain on your loved one, both emotionally and physically, and you too might feel their pain. But you need to be strong. You need to be their pillar of support, and you’ll need to try and put your emotions aside so you can help them get through this tough period.
Caring for someone while they’re going through chemo can be stressful, especially if you don’t have a clue what you should be doing. Knowing what you can do to help ease their discomfort and emotional stress will, in turn, be less stressful for you.
One of the most common side effects for people undergoing chemo is hair loss. As you can imagine, this is traumatic, and of course, you need to be there for your friend or family member. However, other than dealing with emotional support during chemotherapy, it’s also important to know how you can help with some of the other nasty side effects they are likely to experience, including vomiting, nausea, bleeding, bruising, and infection.
Vomiting and Nausea
Everyone at has experienced vomiting or nausea during their chemotherapy sessions. You know how horrible it can make you feel, but at the same time you know it’s going to pass. For a chemo patient, this is an ongoing side effect. To say nausea and vomiting are unpleasant is an understatement, which is why you need to try and reduce these symptoms.
There’s a high possibility your loved one doesn’t want to eat that much, and who can blame them, especially if they’re going to bring it back up. Food intake is necessary as the nutrients help nourish their bodies and keeps them going on a daily basis. As a tip, it’s best to avoid serving them three large meals starting from breakfast, then lunch and dinner. Instead, serve them smaller meals with simple snacks scattered throughout the day. Small meals allow the patient to digest their food easily and decrease the chances of them vomiting.
Food nourishes an empty stomach and soul. It brings people together, and it’s a great way of spending time together – some of the best conversations happen over a meal.
Fluids are just as important. They need to remain hydrated to avoid other problems. Water and apple juice are perfectly fine. Don’t force them to drink a whole glass, as this will just add to the feeling of wanting to vomit. Instead, give them a few sips every half hour or so through a straw.
They may not feel like eating after an extended treatment of chemo, but it is important. Cook meals you know they’ll be able to stomach – homemade soup and bread is always a good option or if they’re up to it, take them out for a bite at one of their favourite restaurants.
Bleeding and Bruising
It’s not uncommon for chemo patients to bruise and bleed easily; this can leave them looking black and blue, and if they bleed too much, there may be an added risk of infection.
Observe what kind of activities they do – they should be doing low-risk activities, but this does not mean they should be housebound either.
To avoid gum bleeding, buy them a soft bristled brush, and if they shave, electric razors are always the better option to cut the odds of suffering from shaving cuts.
It’s important to remember that a person undergoing chemotherapy has a vulnerable immune system, making them more at risk of infection. If they happen to cut themselves, clean the area well and use antibacterial creams and fresh plasters or bandages.
Due to their weakened immune system, they’re more prone to infection and fall into the high-risk category. Now is the time for you to get cleaning. Keep the house tidy and germ-free to avoid any sickness.
Use disinfectant (forget about the smell) on all shared surfaces and make sure everyone who comes into contact with them has clean hands. Having anti-bacterial hand gel on hand will mean you won’t have to ask your guests the embarrassing question if they’ve washed their hands or not; it will be just automatic. On the subject of your guests, if they’ve recently been ill, politely ask them to call instead of popping around to avoid your loved one catching any of their nasty bugs.
It’s amazing what words can sometimes do, and communication that tells them you care, and you’re thinking about them. It doesn’t matter if you just send a small generic card with a few simple words, it’ll be appreciated; who doesn’t love to get letters and cards in the post?
There are many things you can do to care for your loved one while they undergo chemo, but the main thing you can do is to be there. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the right words, but who said you needed to speak? All they want is someone’s who’s going to listen when they’re ready.
Of course, you’re going to want to do your utmost, but again just be there; it’s physically and mentally impossible for you to be able to do everything alone, so don’t. Don’t be afraid to ask others for the help and support you might need.