Caring for someone with weight loss

If you're the main carer for someone with cancer, it can be upsetting and difficult to know how to deal with their lack of appetite or weight loss. Treatments and medicines can affect how they feel about eating. Feeling sick and having diarrhoea or constipation can also stop them eating. They may feel too tired to eat, have a sore or dry throat or mouth, or find chewing and swallowing difficult.

The amount they can manage to eat and what they like or dislike may change from day to day. Knowing when their appetite is at its best means you can make the most of it and treat them to their favourite foods.

We have more information about coping with eating problems. You may also find it helpful to keep track of their food intake using the Macmillan Organiser.

Suggestions for carers about coping with food preparation and mealtimes:

  • Take time to ask them what they’d like to eat.
  • Rather than aiming for three meals a day, try to encourage them to eat meals and snacks throughout the day. You could focus on eating well when their appetite is at its best.
  • Gently encourage the person you’re caring for to eat routinely but try not to push them too much. It helps to create a relaxed atmosphere at mealtimes.
  • Keep servings small and offer second helpings rather than putting too much food on their plate to begin with.
  • Keep snacks in easy reach so that they’re ready whenever the person feels hungry. Stock up on some items you know they prefer so you can prepare meals and snacks easily.
  • Be aware of how energy (calories) can be added to everyday meals and drinks. For example by adding fortified milk to food or drink.
  • Read some suggestions and building-up recipes online. There are also recipes available from the companies that make the energy supplement drinks and powders.
  • Make batches of a favourite vegetable soup and freeze some for a quick meal at a later date. Don’t freeze anything that has had cream added to it.
  • Having an aperitif, such as sherry or brandy, half an hour before a meal is a good way of stimulating the appetite. Some people also find a glass of wine with their meal helps their digestion. Check with the doctor or specialist nurse that the person you’re caring for can have alcohol.
  • Try to talk openly to the person you care for about their weight loss and the different ways you could both manage it. This can help you both feel more in control of the situation.

Back to Preventing weight loss

The building-up diet

If you have lost weight during cancer treatment, the building-up diet will help to give you more energy.

Shopping list

There are several types of food that can be particularly helpful in building up your diet.

Meal ideas

You can increase your energy intake by preparing your meals slightly differently. Our menus offer some suggestions.