You may wonder how can I help a patient? What is considered effectively help? What should I offer/not offer to do? Here is a list of examples that may help


Tips to Help

If patient wants to stay involved in everyday activities, be there to help.


If they want to do errands, exercise, go to events, be there for them and support them. Help them get to places they need to go.

Suggest specific ways to help, not just vague request.


Suggest to run errands, go grocery shopping, help with household chores, such as vacuuming or dusting, help with cleaning, washing dishes, or laundry, water plants, help with bills, cook and freeze meals, help with children or pets, mow the lawn or weed the garden, help with transportation, bring flowers, magazines, books, videos, or DVDs.



Treat the patient the same way you did before they had cancer, do not treat them differently.


They want to be treated normally, a sense of norm in their life is definitely needed during these rough times. Do not be so guarded about that you may say the wrong thing, that you don’t say anything at all, distancing your relationship with the patient. You may say or do something that may disturb someone with cancer, but know your only intention was to do good. You can always apologize afterwards, and say all you want to do is help.

(book page 22)

Make time for a weekly check-in phone call. Let your friend know when you will be calling, and let your friend know that it is okay to not answer the phone.


Never losing contact helps the patient to look forward to something. Make sure the timing is convenient for the patient and that is the priority.

Do what you do best.


Do what comes from the heart and follow through. Lending a hand is easier when you play your strengths. If you love to cook, drop off a homemade dish; if you're an artist, make something to hang on the hospital room wall; and if you're an organizer, offer to gather research or to take notes during medical appointments.


Take care of yourself.


You hear it a lot: Caregivers must take good care of themselves, too. No matter how upset or stressed out you are about your friend's illness, it is critical to be selfish about your own health. Nutrition is important, especially because bad "comfort foods" beckon in times of stress. Regular exercise, even walking, is crucial for the body as well as the mind: Some of the best thinking happens when your body is in motion. Perhaps most important of all is getting enough sleep. Love does, in fact, have boundaries. You must take care of yourself to be the best ally to your friend.



Get Pictures Taken.


Now might not seem like the best time for a glamour shoot, but before your friend loses her hair, gains or loses weight depending on the drug side-effects, and feels really run down, arrange for a private session with a photographer. Get the family session, but also make sure he takes portraits of her alone. They can be inspirational and empowering for people about to embark on a journey like this.



Does the person want my help? What sort of help have they requested? What do I have time for? Is the help I am offering appropriate to my relationship with the person? Who else is available to help? How will the rest of the family react to my involvement? Are there any language, cultural, gender or religious differences that might aid or interfere with my help?


These are all vital questions you may need to ask yourself before helping.

Helping with finances. (6)

Finances become burdensome for most people who are dealing with cancer - even with great health insurance, there is still lost work time and other expenses. Tactfully offering a gift basket, a pair of tickets to a show or ballet, gift certificates for video rentals, or even stepping in secretly to pay utility or other regular bills can be a fantastic way to help. Of course, you'll need to gauge your friend and come up with the most tactful and non-insulting way to help.


Guard their privacy.


Being treated for cancer means that any sense of physical privacy they had has evaporated as they parade around in backless hospital gowns, poked and prodded from all sides. Help them to regain some small shred of privacy and control by not talking about how they are doing with others—even family members—without their permission. Ask them what information they would like you to share and with whom. If they are too ill or too young or too confused to tell you, let your past experience with them and your good judgment guide your discretion.



Be humorous, and know when it is appropriate to be or not to be.

(book 63)

Aside from the obvious reason behind this, there is a study that shows your white blood cell count increases with laughter.

(book 69)

Be aware of the patient’s religious beliefs.

(book 88)

You may unknowingly offend them if you do not know this. Especially when it comes to foods and prayer.

Send cards.


The simplest of things can light up their day. Doesn’t have to be only get well cards but can be humorous cards as well.





References (1) (2) (3) (4) (6) (7) (8)

Help Me Live (book) (9)