Care Tips for Patients with Cancer
April 26 2018
How to Help Patients During a Difficult Time with Cancer
Battling cancer can be one of the most difficult situations a person and their family can go through. It can also be hard for the nurse, but rewarding as well. You have a chance to connect with your patients, encourage them and even rejoice with them when treatment is going well.
But what can you expect day-to-day? What information and education can you pass on to your patient to help them battle cancer or live more comfortably? And how can you handle those tough days? Here are some pointers covering these questions to help you care better for patients with cancer.
What to Expect:
- Each day will be different. There can be days that are difficult and overwhelming but remember to focus on the days that are rewarding. One thing you may learn from your cancer patients is just how precious every moment of life is and to cherish each and every moment.
- It can be challenging when you get close to a patient. Remember to keep a healthy perspective and not let your heart get hard because of what you see.
Communication, Listening and Compassion:
- Communicate and create a team. Caring for a cancer patient is a team effort, so be sure to communicate with the family about their loved one’s illness and their needs and what they can do to help care for the patient.
- Listen to the patient. Let them talk openly about their concerns, fears and emotions and actively listen.
- Remember that everyone handles and reacts to cancer differently. Some patients don’t regret the diagnosis because it brought their family back together, while for others it tore their family apart.
- Have compassion and be there for your patient, though it won’t help if you break down and cry because you see what they are going through.
- A challenge is being objective and balancing each patient’s physical and emotional needs, no matter how busy your day is. Since each patient is different, finding the right balance will vary for each patient.
Nutrition and Exercise for the Cancer Patient:
- Nutrition is an important part of cancer care. Malnutrition is one such issue, so be sure the patient and their family keeps the pantry and fridge stocked with healthy foods and drinks that are readily available and easy to consume. Have them stay away from prepackaged freezer foods as they are not as nutritious.
- Since oncology patients have weakened immune systems, proper hand washing is a must. Food preparation should also include careful washing of fruits and veggies, and proper cooking of meats to avoid food borne illness.
- Nausea and vomiting is common and can be caused by the cancer itself or by the treatment. To help patients deal, suggest they eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. Also, fatty, greasy and spicy foods should be avoided.
- Help the cancer patient remain active as much as is reasonable. Accompany them on a short morning stroll if they feel up to it, or help them perform exercises prescribed by the physical therapist or doctor. Overall, just encourage them to keep active when possible.
Tips for Helping Family Caregivers:
- Help family caregivers by giving them tips on how to handle visitors. There will be days that are better for visitors and days that are not, such as the days following a chemo treatment. On the good days, have family caregivers schedule visitors so the cancer patient does not get overwhelmed or exhausted by too much activity in one day.
- Family caregivers can face pressure and stress juggling the daily duties of caring for their loved one with cancer. No one understands this better than a nurse. Providing support and encouragement for them is just as important as doing so for the patient. Remind family caregivers that they must take care of themselves first in order to care for their loved one, whether that is exercising, doing something relaxing such as reading a book or just getting some sleep.
Helping care for cancer patients can be one of the more difficult types of care, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. You have a chance to offer encouragement and care in one of the most genuine of ways. It is also a chance to connect with family caregivers and offering them support as well. You may have days that are hard or overwhelming, but know that the rewarding days definitely outnumber the more difficult days.