Acquiring Medical Supplies After a Cancer Diagnosis

Acquiring Medical Supplies After a Cancer Diagnosis

Preparing Your Home
Medical gloves with sanitizer and thermometer

Getting medical supplies to make your home cancer-patient friendly

Most households have a small stock of general first aid items and over-the-counter medicines for sicknesses like the common cold. But, nothing prepares your home for an unexpected medical crisis, such as a pediatric cancer diagnosis. It’s natural and understandable that the first thing you want to do is get ahold of your emotional state as you gather the mental strength to be the pillar for your child while they begin the cancer journey. Alas, you must prepare your home and collect the supplies needed to make the process smooth and comfortable for your child.

Getting medical supplies to make your home cancer-patient friendly is very important. When going through cancer treatment, medical supplies are available that make life a little easier at home, and you may find them helpful as a caregiver for a child with cancer.

Preparing Your Home Ahead of Time!

Teddy bear with thermometer

Pediatric cancer treatment may require surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, or even stem cell transplant. Once you get home, you might need to create a recovery area in a specific room, like your living room or bedroom. No matter the treatment type, is your room prepared? Here are some helpful tips to consider when prepping your designated healing space!

  • Is there a window or door nearby for air circulation or to get natural sunlight?
  • Are there shades that can block out the sun if needed during the day?
  • Can you get to water quickly, and if not, a place for a pitcher of water to sit?
  • Do you have bedpans and/or urinals?
  • Do you have extra pillows or a reading pillow?
  • Do you have a lap tray for tablets, laptops, books or other materials needed while in bed?
  • Are there drawers or containers to keep medications organized?
  • Do you need new sheets or a mattress pad?
  • Are there electrical outlets nearby for medical equipment, computer, TV, or phone chargers? Do you need a power strip plug/surge protector?
  • Is there a place to put an erase board to keep important information within sight?
  • Is there a table or a tray table next to the bed?
  • Do you like what you see? Decorate with things that make your child and you feel good, like plants and pictures of your family or maybe their favorite superhero!

Recommended Medical Supplies To Get First

The list of home medical supplies you might need will vary depending on your child’s cancer diagnosis, type, and severity. Different treatment routes will have marked side effects that will range from mild to severe. The best thing you can do is be prepared and know the resources available. Here’s a list of medical supplies and equipment that you’ll undoubtedly need no matter what type of treatment is prescribed for your child.

  1. Bath & Skin
    • Shower chair exampleShower Chair – It can be incredibly physically demanding to stand in the shower for even 10 minutes or sit up in the bathtub when you are fatigued. Shower chairs make bathing easy and take very little energy from the patient. If you or your loved one is experiencing fatigue from cancer treatment, this is a must-have item.
    • Lotions, Ointments, and Moisturizers – For a cancer patient having the right skincare supplies goes beyond being a “luxury.” The same drugs that kill off the cancer cells also affect the growth of your skin cells. Most people know about the hair loss that comes with chemo, but treatments can also result in dull, graying skin that’s dry, sensitive, and irritated. Use products that are gentle, hydrating, and hypoallergenic. Avoid common allergens like fragrance, alcohol, preservatives, and botanical essential oils, which can be irritating or, even worse, cause an allergic reaction. Think about organic products that will cause no harm.
  2. Bedside commode exampleBedside Commode
    • Diarrhea and nausea are both side effects of chemotherapy, for example. There is often such an urgency that the patient may not make it to the restroom. Having a bedside commode makes it much more manageable. If you or the person you’re caring for is too self-conscious to use it, consider hanging a sheet around the commode (or using another type of divider) for privacy.
  3. Mobility Help
    • Metal Canes – for those who are independent enough to use a one-handed walking aid
    • Forearm CrutchesWalking equipment – used by those who have long-term or permanent mobility problems.
    • Walkers – help you remain mobile by providing stability and support while walking.
    • Rollators – walkers with wheels and brakes to eliminate having to lift the walker to walk. Brakes offer extra security when going down inclines. The walkers fold for transport, and many have seats so users can sit and rest when they get tired.
    • Manual Wheelchairs – For patients that cannot walk at all on their own.
  4. Disposable Wipes
    • Wipes of all kinds are essential to have at your disposal. They can be great for specific uses such as disinfection of surfaces and equipment, cleansing the body, or sanitary purposes. Most importantly, disposable wipes are necessary when a patient experiences the common side effects from most cancer treatments, such as fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea. Be sure to stock up on these!
  5. Pill Pulverizer
    • Cancer medications often require swallowing pills.This can be challenging for some children, especially if they have never had to do this before diagnosis.Yellow pills You might think using a spoon or a homemade gadget could do the trick, but these techniques often make it difficult to crush pills and/or risk losing a large portion of the medication. A pill pulverizer allows tablets to be crushed easily and put in a liquid. Smaller pieces are great for a child who has difficulty swallowing or who might need to take many pills simultaneously and who is having difficulty swallowing them together or consecutively. It is also great for radiation patients who have dry mouth, making it difficult to swallow pills. Click here to see an example!
  6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • PPE is the equipment worn by health care professionals to protect them from contact with infectious agents. However, it’s also important that you have basic PPE for your home to keep your child and caregivers safe from infection. PPE for home includes N95 masks, booties for shoes, gloves, disinfectant, gowns, and alcohol prep pads, and don’t forget to include hand sanitizer and sanitizer wipes.
KN95 maskHow to Get Low-cost or Free Medical Supplies

The cost of medical supplies can be an added and unforeseen expense for many cancer families. For help with medical supplies, first, check your insurance policy to learn whether these supplies are covered and under what circumstances. For example, Medicaid, Medicare, and some private insurance will pay for nutritional supplies and support for patients that need feeding tubes and other equipment for more than three months. Other possible sources of support are patient assistance programs offered by the product manufacturers. In some cases, a social worker through your hospital can find out what local agencies might provide discounts or additional cost savings on medical supplies.  

Related Read: Nutrition During Cancer Treatment

Strategies to Afford Medical Equipment:

  • Lady thinking to herselfRent instead of buying. Consider renting a hospital bed or patient lift (which helps move a patient from a bed to a chair, for example), especially if you temporarily need it during your child’s cancer treatment.
  • Ask about borrowing. Some assistive devices such as canes, crutches, and shower chairs may be available on loan for free or at low cost through a local civic organization, a nonprofit, or even your doctor’s office. Ask your doctor if they have a “loaner closet” where donated items are available.
  • Buy online. If you don’t need an item immediately, look for an affordable option online. For example, you might find a brand new bedside commode on Amazon for $40 with free delivery in two days. The same item at the local medical supply store could cost $100.
  • Shop at thrift stores. Many thrift stores carry medical equipment. For example, some Goodwill stores also have onsite mechanics who can fix equipment, make adjustments, or provide advice by telephone.

Programs that offer medical supplies free of charge or for a low cost include:

  • Blueprints For Pangaea – Reallocate unused medical supplies from areas of excess to areas in need. Contact a chapter in our home state.
  • The Healthwell Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization that helps patients with a chronic, life-altering disease afford their medications when health insurance is not enough.
  • Convalescent Aid Society – Provides communities in Southern California free loan of durable medical equipment for personal use to improve the quality of life during medical care.
  • The Durable Medical Equipment Aid Society – Provides in-home mobility and bath care durable medical equipment to individuals who lack the insurance or financial resources to secure mobility and bath care durable medical needed to assist in their daily living or in their recovery from an illness or injury (must be a resident of Los Angeles County or Ventura County).

Suppose you find that after reaching out to your healthcare provider, hospital administration, insurance, and cancer care program companies, you are still in need of essential medical supplies. In that case, we urge you to contact Here to Serve! We will do everything in our power to locate the supplies you need and connect you to direct resources for immediate help. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! Here to Serve provides countless services to assist families on their cancer journey including setting up ways to help that friends can assist with. If you’re looking for more personal ways to help, consider volunteering or donating to help families as they hurdle through the obstacles and challenges of caring for a child with cancer.  

By Sameera Rangwala

About the Author

Sameera Rangwala spent 10 years in the biotech industry. As a scientist and research professional, she uses her skills to blog and provide words of support to the cancer community.

All content on this blog is for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.