Thursday, August 30, 2012

Guest Blog: What Cancer Patients Need from their Caregiver

When it comes to cancer caregiving, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all care. Every patient has a different set of needs and requires varying levels of attention. However, many cancer patients will require some of the same types of assistance during the progression of their disease.

Overall, patients rely on caregivers to help them remain as independent as possible while remaining in their own home. Cancer patients may need hygienic care and/or personal assistance as well as emotional support and general companionship.

Some patients need assistance with only one or two specific activities, while others with more advanced cancers require more aid. For many cancer patients, their level of ability changes from day to day as they experience side effects or symptom flare-ups. Caregivers can adjust the amount of care that they provide to correlate with the patient’s current needs.

Common Things that Caregivers Can Do to Help a Loved One with Cancer

Some of the things that cancer patients may need help with include:
  • Taking medications 
  • Driving to doctor’s appointments 
  • Getting dressed 
  • Showering and toileting 
  • Brushing teeth and hair (or other hygienic activities) 
  • Preparing meals 
  • Doing laundry
Caregivers also may need emotional support from their caregivers. Patients benefit greatly from having a trusted loved one who can listen to their fears and reassure them about the future. 

Caregivers often worry about not fully meeting their loved one’s needs. It’s a learning experience for everyone involved, but most caregivers adjust well to the role over time. Caregivers should communicate openly and frequently with the patient to make sure all of their needs are met. Support groups and forums can also give caregivers additional ideas for handling their new role and balancing their loved one’s needs with their own. 

Specific Caregiving Needs of Mesothelioma Patients 

Mesothelioma patients may have specialized advanced health care needs that other cancer patients do not have. Their cancer’s symptoms can greatly interfere with their ability to breathe or move about the home, so they may need a higher level of day-to-day personal care. Mesothelioma patients may also need assistance operating specialized home care equipment that they use to palliate these symptoms.

Many mesothelioma patients rely on portable oxygen tanks, mechanical ventilators or similar medical equipment. Caregivers may need to help patients change their oxygen cylinders or operate their ventilator. Some patients have ports for recurring chemotherapy infusions, and a few patients have shunts in their pleural or peritoneal cavity; patients may need help keeping these devices clean and sanitary.

It is very important that patients who use home care equipment receive care from someone with a medical background. If an in-home caregiver does not have the license to provide advanced physical care, they may call a hospice worker or licensed nurse to help with these health care services. This ensures that the patient’s medical needs are fully met.   

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

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