It’s challenging to know what to say to someone with a sick family member. After all, what do you say to someone whose whole world has been turned on its side?
Overview: Our Top Picks
Gift Ideas for Families With a Parent Diagnosed With Cancer
- Whole Foods Gift Card or Safeway Gift Card
- Charcuterie and cheese gift box ($54.99)
- Healthy snack box ($21.49)
- The Upside of Cancer Book ($6.99)
- When Breath Becomes Air Book($12.24)
- Sudoku ($12.95)
- Crossword puzzle book ($15.89)
- Monopoly ($16.34)
- Nut and dried fruit gift basket ($25.06)
Gift Ideas for Families With a Child Diagnosed With Cancer
- Bunny stuffed animal ($25.00)
- Plush Dinosaurus 4 Pack Stuffed Animal ($26.99)
- Helium Balloons Assortment ($8.99)
- Disney Plus Subscription ($7.99/month)
- Journal ($25.00)
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Gift Ideas for Families With a Parent Diagnosed With Cancer
- Gift Ideas for Families With a Child Diagnosed With Cancer
- Gift Ideas for Families With a Spouse or Partner Dealing WIth Cancer
- Gift Ideas for Families Dealing With a Terminal Cancer Diagnosis
You may be afraid of saying the wrong thing. You know you shouldn’t offer treatment advice or compare someone else’s experience with cancer to theirs. You also understand that you shouldn’t promise that “everything will be ok,” when you don’t know if it will or not.
Instead of saying anything, you may choose to show your support by giving a present to the family. Here are some ideas of gifts for families who are struggling with a health crisis.
Gift Ideas for Families With a Parent Diagnosed With Cancer
It’s one thing to find appropriate gifts for cancer patients, but it may be even more challenging to find something to give to the whole family. It may be especially tricky if there are various age groups represented in the family or different likes and interests. Here are some family gift ideas to consider.
1. Home-cooked meal
Even if mom or dad are feeling bad, the family still needs to eat. We know that this is not an earth-shattering idea, but providing a struggling family with a home-cooked meal is one of the nicest things you could do for them.
Ask about likes and dislikes, allergies, and food sensitivities before planning the meal. Tell whether you will be delivering the food hot and ready to eat or ready to be baked. And don’t forget to prepare the dish in containers that you don’t want back.
If you can't be there in-person, consider sending gift cards to a grocery store like Whole Foods or Safeway.
2. Home cleaning service
It’s hard to keep a home clean when a family member has cancer. Suddenly there is more to do in less time. Consider purchasing a gift card to a reputable, local home cleaning service for the family.
They may appreciate this offer instead of you showing up with buckets and brooms. They may feel weird having someone they know cleaning their shower and toilets.
3. Hospital treats
If the family is spending a lot of time in hospital rooms and treatment centers, consider packing a tote bag with granola bars, packages of trail mix, and pieces of fruit. Alternatively, you can ship them a box of treats. We like this charcuterie and cheese gift box or this healthy snack box from Amazon.
Hospital snacks can be pricey, and the family will appreciate having a ready-made bag of treats to take on each of the appointments.
4. Books about cancer
If the family has young children, the parents may be struggling with how to describe the illness and treatments. Thankfully, there are many quality children’s books written about the subject.
Consider purchasing some of those titles or other books about dealing with cancer. You'll also want to think about the family’s spiritual beliefs before purchasing titles that offer a specific perspective.
We recommend The Upside of Cancer and When Breath Becomes Air.
5. Escape room gift certificate
It’s important for families dealing with cancer to take time for fun. Escape rooms are great family activities that don’t require a lot of physical activity, which may be exhausting for a cancer patient. Escape Rooms are also great because they don’t require immunocompromised individuals to intermingle with the general public.
Ask the escape room employees to sanitize the room ahead of the session. Most escape rooms are designed with teenagers and adults in mind, so this may not be an appropriate gift for families with young children.
If you can't make it to the escape room, consider sending some puzzle books, like sudoku, crossword puzzles, and others.
6. Board games
Consider purchasing board games for the family, especially ones that are quick and easy. Pay attention to the recommended age range of the games, so you buy something that is appropriate for the entire family.
But, everybody loves games like Uno, Sorry, or Monopoly.
7. Kids day out
Treat the kids of the family to a day out in the community. Take them to the zoo, an amusement park, or a trampoline park. The children of the family are going through a traumatic experience.
Give them something else to think about for the day. This gift will also give the parents time for uninterrupted, guilt-free rest.
8. Movie gift certificates
Purchase gift certificates for a local movie theater for the family. Parents can choose whether or not they would like to use the gift certificates as a family activity, or something special for just the kids to enjoy.
Again, even those who are struggling physically can usually enjoy a movie. Pair the gift with the family’s favorite movie snack.
If they can't get to the movie, consider buying them a subscription to a streaming service like Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Hulu.
9. Fruit arrangements
Consider delivering a fruit arrangement to the family. The whole family will enjoy feasting on healthy, attractive fruit.
It’s more practical than a floral arrangement and is packed full of healthy vitamins.
You can even send a dried fruit arrangement on Amazon, like this dried fruit platter.
Gift Ideas for Families With a Child Diagnosed With Cancer
A childhood cancer diagnosis can devastate a family. You may struggle to remain upbeat and send a positive message for the cancer patient when a child has to undergo painful treatments.
Since many of us don’t know what to say during these difficult situations, here are some gifts to consider giving to the family.
10. Stuffed animals
Purchase a gift certificate so each child in the family can build a stuffed animal.
Even though it would add to the cost of the gift, allowing each child their own stuffed animal is important. After all, all the siblings are going through a traumatic event, as well as the patient.
Or, you can consider getting the child a stuffed animal of their own, like a cute stuffed animal bunny or another cute stuffed animal.
11. Gift certificates for restaurants
It’s difficult for parents who are going through a traumatic event to keep their heads above water.
Parents who have sick children have no time to cook nightly meals. Assist the family by purchasing gift cards to local restaurants. This is a thoughtful gift that you can give from afar.
12. Frozen treats
What kid doesn’t like a popsicle? Popsicles are also great treats for cancer patients who are undergoing treatment.
Check with the parents to see if there are any dietary restrictions, and then purchase a ton of frozen treats to be enjoyed by the entire family. Don’t forget to make sure the family has freezer space before inundating them with your gift.
13. Zoo membership
An ill child may struggle to spend an entire day at a zoo or amusement park. If the family had a membership, they could go for a couple of hours at a time and not worry about wasting money from paying for frequent admissions.
You may also consider purchasing a membership to a children’s museum or play center as well.
14. Form a team for the child
Most childhood cancer research organizations have walks or runs in major cities across the country.
Check to see when one is scheduled in your community and form a team to participate in honor of the child. Design special t-shirts and encourage others in the community to join.
Purchase a ton of helium balloons (you can get them in bulk on Amazon) and ask family members and friends to write positive messages on them. Decorate the child’s home with these colorful reminders of support and encouragement.
A house filled with balloons would be beautiful to return to after an extended stay in the hospital.
16. Streaming video service
Check with the family to see whether or not they have a streaming video service. Consider purchasing one for all the members of the family to enjoy.
Most services allow you to buy gift subscriptions, like Disney Plus or Amazon Prime.
17. Small cooler full of drinks
Fill a small cooler with ice and drinks for the family to transport to and from the hospital. Periodically stop by to refill the container with ice and favorite beverages.
Include a permanent marker in the bag so the family members can mark their individual containers.
The mom or dad may have a difficult time working during a traumatic event such as a childhood cancer diagnosis. Consider giving the family gift cards or money to help pay for the extra expenses they will encounter.
Cancer can be financially devastating, so any financial help that you can give them would be appreciated.
Gift Ideas for Families With a Spouse or Partner Dealing WIth Cancer
How do you show a family that you care about them as they go through a difficult time? That’s the question we are trying to answer for you. However, finding the right gift idea might be tricky. You may also struggle with knowing how often to visit and how long to stay.
The best advice we can offer is this: Talk with the patient and their spouse or partner. Tell them that you want to help, but you would like to receive their guidance on what that help should look like.
For example, they may admit they are overrun with casseroles and homemade soup, but they are completely out of laundry soap and trash bags. Perhaps they will tell you that they appreciate visitors – but only for short visits. Having honest communication with the family may help you select the best gift for the situation.
Here are some gift ideas for a family with cancer. Please note that sometimes the best gifts are acts of service.
19. Subscriptions from Amazon
Cancer treatments sometimes last for months or even years. So one way to help a family is to subscribe to the household products on Amazon and pay for them to be delivered periodically.
For example, ask about the laundry habits of the household. Then subscribe for a delivery of Tide Pods to be made periodically. You can do the same for other staples, toiletries, and cleaning supplies. Ask other families to join, and, working together, you can reduce the household expenses for the family until the patient is strong enough to return to work.
A cancer patient often needs to be transported to and from treatment and medical appointments. In addition, if the spouse needs to work, they may struggle to keep up with their partner’s schedule.
If this describes the family’s situation, set up an online transportation schedule using a carpooling app. Invite friends, family members, and neighbors to help.
21. Go gift shopping
If you have a friend who is a cancer patient, they may struggle to surprise their spouse or partner with anniversary, birthday, or holiday gifts. Offer to go shopping for your friend or assist them as they pick out gifts online. Then, help the patient with wrapping the gifts.
Grass doesn’t quit growing when someone is going through cancer treatment. Offer to mow the lawn, trim the bushes, pull weeds, and spread mulch. Or, offer to sit with the patient while their partner completes these tasks as they would wish them to be completed.
23. Ancestry subscription
The couple may have a lot of hours to fill while waiting for appointments and sitting through treatments. Give them something to do – other than watching shows on Netflix. Consider purchasing an Ancestry subscription so that they can research and organize their family tree.
Sometimes people in life and death situations become interested in their legacy. This might lead them to examine those who came before them. Ancestry may help them discover interesting details about their great-great-grandparents. The service may also help them connect with long-lost cousins.
Gift Ideas for Families Dealing With a Terminal Cancer Diagnosis
Of course, some families must face the dreaded news that their loved one is not expected to survive. What do you give to a family who suspects that their time with their mom, dad, husband, or wife may be limited?
It’s hard to think of gift ideas for families in this situation – especially if the patient is bed-ridden. Our best advice is to see that all of the family’s basic needs are met. Here are a few more ideas.
24. Photo session
You may consider offering to pay for a professional photographer to come and photograph the family one last time. However, some families may not wish to remember their loved ones sick and in bed. This is understandable.
There are ways to protect the patient’s dignity while still recording the memory. Consider taking photos of each family member’s hand, as they hold the hand of their loved one. You may also have photographs taken of the family in a loving embrace that blocks the harsh realities of death.
We understand that everyone’s situation is different. Some choose to have their loved ones at home when they pass, and other times the patient is in the hospital or a Hospice facility. Depending on where the death will occur and who is in charge of the patient’s care, the family may have a lot of time to fill while waiting for the inevitable to happen.
For that reason, you might consider giving remembrance journals like this one to the family. This will provide them with prompts to consider as they record memories of their loved ones.
We have already recommended that you provide meals for the family struggling with a cancer diagnosis. We think that this is one of the best ways to show a family that you care.
You may also consider providing coffee or tea for families as they sit on their loved one’s deathbed. Chances are that they aren’t getting restful sleep. They may appreciate having access to good-quality coffee and flavored creamers – especially if they spend a lot of time in a hospital.
Consider giving the family gift cards to the closest coffee shop or dropping off a to-go carafe of quality coffee each morning that all the visitors can enjoy.
27. Bluetooth speaker
Some families choose to play music for their loved ones as they lie in bed. Consider purchasing a quality Bluetooth speaker that stays by the patient’s bedside.
The music selection will give the family something to talk about as they sit near their loved one. The playlist may also help you walk down memory lane since music often sparks memories of fun times.
The patient may not be healthy enough to fly or ride in a car. However, you may consider offering to pay for the transportation of a distant family member so that they can come for a visit. Use your airline miles to fly in your friend’s favorite cousin or brother who lives across the country.
Offer Your Support In Other Ways
Some of the best gifts that you can give may have little to do with the items that you purchase. You can always show support for a family in ways that don’t cost money.
Do things around the house for the family. Mow their grass, plant annuals, and weed flower beds. Shovel the snow during the winter and salt the ice. Scrape the windows of the car in the mornings the patient has treatments.
Organize a carpool so the healthy children can get rides to and from school and practice.
Volunteer to be the communication director for the family. Write a blog or text to share with subscribers.
If the family has specific spiritual beliefs, offer to pray with the family.
Sometimes people walk a fine line between being helpful and being obtrusive. While you should consider saying, “I’m bringing a ready-to-eat meal at five tonight,” instead of “let me know if you need anything,” you also need to give families space.
Sometimes people are also quick to help at the beginning of a diagnosis but forget about the family who is still struggling months later. You may consider holding back on your help at first, and then jumping in when others disappear.