A friend of mine recently had a bone marrow transplant and, fortunately, is doing well. Before her discharge from the hospital, a couple of her friends organized a Website to help coordinate meals for her and her family.
So many times, people want to do something for those undergoing treatment and don't know what to do. Patients themselves are hesitant to ask for help. Providing food is an expression of love and care and is often well appreciated. But preparing food for someone with cancer can be challenging. Here are some tips to help prepare meals for those in need.
If meals are going to be needed for a time, consider using a Website such as Caring Bridge, where a calendar can be created to help with coordination and organization. People can sign up for meals (or other services such as laundry and transportation), and others can see what is being taken, so they don't prepare the same thing.
Ask the patients what they feel they can eat. Some may not like sweets. Others may not like savory foods. Find out if they have any dietary restrictions (low sodium, low fiber, etc). Some Websites, including Caring Bridge, have an area where the patient can fill in likes/dislikes, allergies, etc.
Remember food safety
Many patients have a compromised immune system. Wash your hands well. Wash fruits and vegetables, and remember to keep hot food hot and cold food cold. My friend kept a cooler filled with ice packs outside her door for people to drop off meals. This way, someone did not have to be home to accept it. In addition to providing a safe place to leave food, the cooler kept her from feeling like she had to be social when she wasn't feeling well, and it kept her from being exposed to germs when her counts were low.
Use disposable containers or something you don't want to keep. The patient won't feel compelled to get the dishes returned to you. Also, make the meal visually appealing. Maybe include colorful plates and napkins to help lift the patient's spirits.
Find out about family members' food allergies and preferences. For some people, providing meals is primarily a task for the family, not the patient. But if the patient normally prepares the meals, having some meals ready may relieve that responsibility for a while. My friend's daughter disliked seafood, so that was one of the restrictions listed on the Website.
What if you don't cook, or you live far away from the patient? Purchase some restaurant gift cards or meals from a delivery service. Some restaurants offer take-home meals, or maybe the patient would feel up to enjoying a nice meal out occasionally.
I know there are other Websites and services out there to help with meals for cancer patients. Are there any that you recommend?