April 9, 2024

Is delivering meals to a cancer patient actually helpful?

A few weeks ago, we shared some of the things the patients in our support groups experienced with their loved ones when they were diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Here are some more advice on how best to support patients – from patients themselves:

Delivering food all at once or not at all – Meals and groceries can be an absolute Saviour, especially if the patient has kids or during a round of treatment. However, it can mean food goes off if delivered all at once, leaving them struggling other weeks.

The solution – “We have found the best help/support has been grocery vouchers and freezer meals made by loved ones.” Bowel cancer patient and mum Adrienne agrees and says, “We have four young kids. These are a lifesaver on chemo days, and when I’m in the hospital, my husband or whoever is babysitting doesn’t have to worry about cooking as well. Also, grocery drop-offs of good nutritious, healthy food for the kids and us.” Our nurse, Victoria, advises, “Make sure the person has freezer space before delivering multiple meals.”

Forgetting to support the carer – When someone we love is diagnosed with cancer, we often want to wrap them in love and support, which is very important. What we have heard from patients is that it is a diagnosis for the whole family, and the carers need support, too. This role often falls on the partner, husband or wife – causing stress for the patient worrying about everything falling on their significant other. Laura’s husband was diagnosed and says she “cannot express how often the “non” cancer family are left behind. We also need someone to ask how we are as you feel very much on the same path as the one diagnosed.”

The solution – Our nurse’s advice; “Include the person who is doing most of the caring to talk. Make sure they are OK. Give them an opportunity to do something ‘normal’ with you. A suggestion from a wife was ‘can someone please take my husband out for a round of golf/beer/movie/watch the game’, making sure there was something for him with his mates which took him out of the carer role for a short time.” Often bringing meals, doing housework, walking the dog – practical things mentioned above can give the carer a break.

We also suggest helping them set up a free Support Crew page, a free online support roster that can help ensure the patient and their carer get the help they need when they need it.

Financially, times are tough for a lot of people, so it is very important to remember that:

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to support someone with cancer. It’s making the effort that matters.” – Mary, bowel cancer survivor and Bowel Cancer NZ team member.

We have collated all the uncut answers from our patient support group, including advice from our nurse, into a document you can access or share HERE.