From a caregiver’s perspective, taking care of someone with cancer can be said to be similar to other conditions in that it can be challenging and rewarding at the same time.
Depending on the type and severity of cancer that a resident of Cedar Rapids or elsewhere is dealing with, a caregiver or a group of home health care professionals may be able to provide everything from general support to end-of-life care.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice work with clients who need care for different medical conditions, whether it’s something in the short term or perhaps a longer-term palliative care situation. They also can be of assistance to people close to the client as well, including friends and family who want to help and may want roles as unskilled caregivers.
Because cancer cells are often so unpredictable in how they move and grow in people, doctors may not be able to give a precise estimate of how fast or how slow it can spread through the body. Some people may live months or years after their diagnosis, while others may pass away faster than expected.
The body can also decline quickly, sometimes, especially if other health conditions are triggered or impacted by the initial cancer. For instance, someone weak from cancer may lose their balance and injure themselves badly. They could break a bone that impacts their mobility, or they can receive a concussion that affects their mental processes.
In some cases, people on hospice programs have been declared terminal, so they may not receive regular treatments, which come with their own challenges. This means, in some cases, that cancer is spreading faster.
Someone planning to offer caregiving services for people should first start learning about what type of cancer they’re dealing with and what type of treatments, if any, have been employed. That’s because treatments for cancer can also cause physical and mental challenges, depending on what methods are used.
Chemo, for instance, which involves a variety of chemicals, going into the body to hopefully kill or weaken cancer cells, can leave people tired and sick during treatment, including losing hair. People may go to a medical center for a few hours for their treatment and then come home to recover. It can be a cycle of slowing getting energy back and reducing nausea and then repeating.
Many newer “recipes” of chemotherapy medication do include anti-nausea elements. In some cases the frequency may change – the dosage may be the same but spread out over two difficult months instead of six months.
Some people also experience permanent effects, such as hair growing back differently or nerve damage. They may bruise easier as well.
Radiation, another option for some types of cancer, can cause sores, fatigue, and dietary changes.
Some may have received surgery to remove the cancer or repair organs damaged by it. They will require regular recovery support and perhaps therapy.
Patients may have dietary changes too – they may not be as hungry or eating may even hurt, but still need to keep up their nutrition levels.
For those who aren’t good candidates for traditional treatments or who choose to opt-out of them, they also may need caregiving help. They may choose to not go through the pain and exhaustion if they know their cancer is too advanced, want to try other alternate/complementary methods, or move right into hospice care for the limited time they have left.
They may need care as the cancer advances, which could include pain management. People receiving hospice care may also have access to more types of medication. They may have higher levels of pain as well and also won’t have to worry about long-term addiction possibilities.
Most treatments also negatively impact the immune system, making people more vulnerable to catching other diseases or infections or having them hit harder than others with stronger immune systems. So caregivers may have to be prepared to work with clients suffering from the flu, even common colds.
COVID has added another wrinkle to caregiving: not only are caregivers required to wear protective equipment and take precautions like better hygiene but clients are also encouraged to do the same. A poor immune system can make this type of protection even more vital.
Cancer care resources
Although there is still a lot that science doesn’t understand about the causes of cancer, there is more information about how to either treat it and if this isn’t possible, how to take care of people who are battling it, even if they’ll likely lose the battle.
Because cancer is so common, our staff worked with many clients who have been dealing with it. Many also have had friends or family touched by cancer.
To help caregivers, there are also a variety of online resources and virtual events.
One is World Cancer Day, which is coordinated by the Union for International Cancer Control. The campaign has taken place every Feb. 4 since 2000, with the goal of encouraging smarter policies and legislation to boost progress in treating cancer, raising awareness, improving patient services, and more.
This year, people who are interested in cancer topics are encouraged to take a 21-day challenge to commit to something related to cancer, such as a new healthy habit, improving access for others, or getting involved in advocacy efforts.