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Tips on How to Help Cancer Patients During the Holidays

October 26, 2017

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If you have a family member or friend who is coping with cancer, you might be wondering what he or she thinks about the upcoming holidays and what you may be able to do to help. Even though you have the best intentions, you should realize that it’s virtually impossible for you to know exactly how your loved one feels. Everyone responds differently to cancer, and while some people may want to uphold as many traditions as possible, others will prefer to keep the celebrations to a minimum. Therefore, it’s important for you to follow your loved one’s lead.

The best way to get started is to have a no-pressure conversation. Keep in mind that after focusing significant time and energy on fighting cancer, your family member or friend might feel a bit disconnected and out of touch, not to mention exhausted. He or she may simply not feel up to meeting his or her usual holiday obligations. But, you can assist. Your goal should be to help your loved one find the right balance between celebrating and recovering. Here are some ideas on how you can do so:

  • Volunteer to take over some mundane household tasks, such as dusting, vacuuming, shopping for groceries, washing clothes, doing yard work and decorating. This will help your loved one conserve energy and perhaps allow him or her to participate in more “fun” holiday activities without becoming overly tired.

  • Put together a tentative holiday schedule, and reassure your loved one that everyone will understand if he or she declines an invitation or cancels on short notice.

  • Make yourself available. Sometimes, your friend or family member may only need a listening ear. You needn’t feel compelled to provide unsolicited advice or come up with concrete solutions to every problem. Simply touch base frequently to offer inspiring words, see if he or she needs anything and let him or her know that you care.

  • Watch for signs of stress. If your family member or friend is not sleeping well or eating properly, or if he or she seems unusually sad, overwhelmed, depressed or discouraged, encourage him or her to reach out for help.

If you have a loved one who is coping with a cancer diagnosis and you need assistance – during the holidays or at any other time – Moffitt Cancer Center offers a variety of supportive care services. To learn more, call 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online.