Managing practical tasks

Cancer can make managing practical tasks such as housework, shopping, washing and dressing more difficult. We have tips to help.

Cancer and daily activities

It is difficult to know exactly how cancer and its treatment will affect you. You may be able to carry on with practical tasks as you did before. Or you may feel too tired or weak to manage everyday things such as:

  • washing and dressing
  • preparing meals or drinks
  • grocery shopping
  • laundry or housework.

This may be because you are coping with the symptoms and side effects of treatment. If you have surgery your mobility may be affected while you recover. This can make you feel less confident about doing things around the house or going outside on your own.

Tell your specialist nurse or cancer doctor about any practical help you might need at home as you recover. They can give you advice and may be able to arrange help or equipment for you.

Remember that family, friends and neighbours can all help you with your everyday activities. Often, they will be glad to help with any practical tasks.

Tips for managing practical tasks


  • Plan ahead and prioritise things that need doing most.
  • Spread tasks out over the week. Try to do a little bit of housework each day rather than lots at one time.
  • Pace yourself and take breaks.
  • If you can afford it, employ a cleaner.


  • Ask family or a friend to go grocery shopping with you for extra help. Or you could ask them to get things for you when they do their own shopping.
  • Shop online and have it delivered to your home.
  • Make a list before you start, so you do not waste energy or time.
  • Ask shop staff for help packing and carrying groceries to the car.

Preparing meals

  • Sit when preparing meals.
  • Cook simpler meals to reduce the time you spend in the kitchen.
  • Prepare extra dishes or double portions of food and freeze them for when you need them.

Washing and dressing

  • Have a bath rather than a shower or sit down in the shower.
  • Sit down when getting dressed.
  • Wear clothes that are easy to put on and take off. Sometimes wearing pyjamas is easier if you are not going out.
  • If possible, use a trolley to move your washing to and from the washing machine.
  • Ask for help to hang up washing.
  • Sit down to iron or wear clothes that do not need to be ironed.
  • Ask your GP if there are any aids that may help you around the house, such as a shower chair or trolley.

Occupational therapists

Occupational therapists look at practical ways of making a home safe, comfortable and easy to live in. They help people who have difficulty moving around or doing everyday tasks such as dressing, washing and cooking. They may be able to visit you at home to help you find ways to do things more easily.

Your cancer doctor, specialist nurse or GP can refer you to an occupational therapist.