How to Prep Your Home for Cancer Treatment

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Though there are many combinations of strategies for cancer treatment, one thing they all have in common is that some degree of recovery will be necessary. Your doctor will tell you what to expect during and after treatment, as well as how it will impact your day-to-day life. With this information, you can go about preparing your home to make the recovery process more comfortable. 

In addition to your doctor’s advice, you may find it helpful to talk to someone who has had the same disease and the same treatment. Hearing from those who have already been through this process can provide you with some insider tips on what you will (and won’t) need to prepare ahead of time. Some additional tasks to consider:

Tidy up 

If your treatment will require a significant amount of time and energy (surgery, high-dose chemotherapy, etc.), or if a lengthy recovery is anticipated, consider cleaning and organizing your home now, while you’re able. Pay special attention to areas where you’ll spend a lot of time, such as your bedroom, bathroom, and living room or den. While stocking cleaning supplies, opt for products that do not contain or have reduced amounts of fragrances, irritants and flammable ingredients. Many cleaning supplies or household products can irritate the eyes or throat, or cause headaches and other health problems—issues you won’t want to deal with on top of those caused by your treatment (you might feel quite unwell already, and these chemicals and smells can trigger nausea, headaches, etc.). If you discover (or know of) mold or fungus in your building, talk with your doctor about how this can impact your body if your immune system is impaired during treatment.

Perform routine maintenance

Replace filters, such as those in your water supply or HVAC system, and batteries, including those in your smoke detector. Addressing these tasks now will ensure you don’t have to during your recovery. You may also consider purchasing a HEPA filter. Studies suggest people with certain forms of cancer can face more difficult odds during recovery if they live in areas with heavy air pollution.

Prepare a recovery area

When you get home, you may be spending most of your time in a specific area, like your living room or bedroom. Think about what you may need after treatment: 

  • Are there outlets nearby for computer and phone chargers? If so, are your cords long enough to reach them? 
  • Do you need new sheets or a mattress pad (consider getting a waterproof one, as incontinence can be a side effect of many cancer treatments)? 
  • Is there a safe place to store your medications, out of the reach of children and/or pets? 
  • Can you get to water easily? 
  • Do you have easy access to clean clothes? 
  • Will you need a night light to safely make your way from your recovery area to the bathroom? 
  • Should you move to a ground-floor room to sleep in because you might not have the energy to climb stairs? 

Be deliberate about setting up a space that is both comfortable and functional for you.

Install essential self-care tools

If you will have limited mobility after surgery, or if extreme fatigue is an expected side effect of your treatment, showering may present some challenges. However, a variety of tools, including shower chairstub benchesinflatable shampoo basinsshower wipes, shampoo caps, and dry shampoo can accommodate varying post-treatment needs (note that some of these items might be supplied by your hospital, so call ahead and ask).

Arrange your workspace

Speak with your employer about accommodating your treatment schedule (The Job Accommodation Network is a great resource for understanding your rights and how to ask for what you need), whether that means time off, flex time, or work-from-home hours. If you will be working from home while recovering, obtain any remote tools you’ll need, such as a wifi signal booster, webcam, headphones, or software downloads.

Go on a grocery run

Talk with a registered dietitian about meal planning, vitamins and supplements, and reducing side effects of treatment, such as nausea and diarrhea. Stock your fridge, freezer, and pantry with foods that are both appealing and easy to prepare—this may include peanut butter, pudding, frozen dinners, soup, canned or frozen fish or chicken, cheese, and eggs. When cooking meals ahead of treatment, prepare extra dishes or double portions of food to freeze for an easy meal during recovery.

Pack a treatment tote bag

Having a “go bag” of essential items can make treatment days less chaotic. Pack things that will make you feel more comfortable, such as comfortable clothing, warm socks, snacks, and a water bottle. Also include things to help you pass the time in the waiting room and/or during treatment: download movies to your laptop, pick out a few books and magazines to read, or load a new game on your smartphone.

Update your contacts

Your cell phone should be loaded with important numbers related to your treatment, including your doctor’s office, pharmacist, and any support services you’ll call during your recovery. You may also consider saving numbers or bookmarking websites for essential services you may need on short notice, such as grocery and restaurant delivery, childcare or pet care providers, transportation services, and support groups.

Recruit your support network

Don’t feel guilty about asking for help! Whether you need someone to pick up the kids from school, walk the dog, or run a quick errand, friends and family are often more than happy to chip in so you can focus on recovery. (On this note, there’s no better time to add a caregiver to your account here.)

The content on this website is intended to provide the best possible information for you, but should not be considered—or used as a substitute for—medical advice. If you have questions about your diagnosis or treatment, please contact your health care provider(s). For questions or comments about this content, please email us at [email protected].