Coping With Emotions

How to Support a Cancer Caregiver: Give the Gifts They Will Love

Figuring out how to support a cancer caregiver in your life takes some consideration. When making a support package, you can include items like a gift certificate to a local coffee shop or a standing coffee shop conversation.
Figuring out how to support a cancer caregiver in your life takes some consideration. When making a support package, you can include items like a gift certificate to a local coffee shop or a standing coffee shop conversation.

Those who are in the trenches of caring for a loved one with cancer are strained under financial and emotional stress. Being a primary caregiver for someone, walking through the treatments alongside their loved one and taking care of life inside and outside of the hospital is hard work. You may wonder how to support a cancer caregiver with more than a perfectly timed card or encouraging word. To begin, you can assemble a collection of items that offer comfort and guidance to this special person.

Why a Kit is a Good Idea

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer caregivers take on varied and important roles during their time caring for a loved one. Caregivers help out with financial concerns and make major medical decisions, all while supporting the emotional and physical health of the patient. While caregivers often see these tasks as a part of their role as a partner, parent or loved one, caregivers often overlook their own health.

When a caregiver is in and out of the hospital, accompanying their loved one during treatments, they may find themselves exhausted and even getting sick. Without a support system for the caregiver, the patient and the caregiver can suffer. The healthier and more encouraged a caregiver is, the more that caregiver can pour into making good decisions and providing excellent support for the patient.

A caregiver support kit is the perfect gift for anyone who is walking closely with a cancer patient. These packages are typically easy to put together, and you can choose to refill the supplies throughout the months or year. Here are a few ideas of what to include in a bag (or in a series of kits) to give them energy, encouragement and a break from the daily stress.

The Essentials

When starting your supportive gift, remember the caregiver is likely spending lots of time in a hospital or at the bedside of their loved one. Try to keep the components of your kit focused on the emotional and physical health of the caregiver. To support the caregiver’s immune system, consider tossing in packets of vitamin C or cold-fighting enzyme packets, dried fruit and antibacterial hand soaps. (A caregiver with a cold can’t visit their loved one in the hospital, so keeping germs at bay is vital.) Toss in a few bottles of water, herbal tea bags and a colorful water bottle or coffee cup to encourage plenty of healthy fluids.

For encouragement and inspiration, include note cards from well-wishers, a journal, new pen and a good book. You can also include self-care items, like deodorant, shampoo and tampons, so they don’t have to keep running to the store. Meal-prep services they can receive through the mail also eliminate the need for consistent food shopping.

The Unexpected

Your support kit should reflect the personality of the caregiver, so include plenty of personal touches as well. A gift card for the hospital coffee shop, paid subscription to a Netflix account or favorite magazines are perfect ways to pass the time. Consider supporting the caregiver’s hobby as well: knitting needles and yarn for the crafter, new headphones for the music enthusiast or gift cards for a favorite local restaurant who delivers for the foodie. Each of these small touches will go a long way towards encouragement, nourishment and distraction for the caregiver.

Support a cancer patient by figuring out how to support a cancer caregiver; everyone wins when you support the entire cancer team, and everyone has a better chance of staying as healthy and happy as possible.

Counseling services aren't just for the patient. If caregiving becomes too difficult, UVA Cancer Center has the mental health resources to get you through this journey.

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Haley Burress
Haley Burress