Guest Blog: How to Care for a Senior with Cancer

mesotheliomaEven if you’ve already had experience helping an older relative or loved one with their health, caring for a senior with cancer can be a totally unique experience. Each patient will have their own set of needs – both physical and emotional – that you’ll become responsible for. It’s fairly common for cancer caregivers to take on more and more duties as their patient’s cancer progresses. Throughout the process, they’ll still have to balance their own lives and obligations as well.

Sound difficult?

It is, but proper preparation and caregiver resources can make the entire experience much easier for the caregiver and more effective for the patient.

Meeting the Patient’s Needs

Each cancer patient has a very unique set of needs. The extent of care a patient requires often depends on the stage of their cancer, the intensity of their symptoms and their overall condition. Patients with an early stage cancer may require only basic assistance, while patients with more advanced metastatic cancers might need extra help with everyday tasks or pain management.

Some of the tasks that cancer patients may need assistance with include:

• Bathing
• Toileting
• Dressing
• Taking medications
• Meal preparation
• Moving about the house
• Driving/running errands
• General housekeeping

Caregivers should always try to openly communicate with their patient to clearly evaluate their needs. Many patients will want to stay as independent as possible. Caregivers should encourage their loved ones to remain active as long as it is comfortable for them to do so.

Unless they are specially trained to change catheters, switch oxygen tanks, or handle other medical needs, caregivers should typically not try to provide any sort of health care to the patient. Caregivers may safely help patients portion out medications, and they may also help patients stay comfortable by providing blankets and warm liquid or helping them change positions. However, any advanced medical care should come from a licensed nurse or hospice care provider.

While it is important for caregivers to provide physical assistance to seniors with cancer, their patients may also benefit from general emotional support. This is a highly emotional time for both the patient and the caregiver; often, a calming conversation or a reassuring touch can make a big impact on reducing anxiety and stress for both parties.

For more information on how to manage care for your senior loved one, including the resources that may help you provide better care at lower cost, get in touch with Elder Law of East Tennessee.  We can help you and your loved ones get the care you need and enjoy greater peace of mind.

Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for The Mesothelioma Center. One of her focuses is living with cancer.