When an older adult is diagnosed with cancer, family members often find themselves unexpectedly filling the role of caregiver. Cancer treatment can be extremely difficult and often results in side effects. Knowing about some of the common side effects of cancer treatment and how to deal with them can make you more prepared for assisting your aging relative.
Below are 5 common side effects of cancer treatment along with some tips for coping.
#1 Lack of Appetite
People who are being treated for cancer may not have much interest in eating. Treatment can decrease appetite or cause the person to be uninterested in food because it tastes or smells different than it once did. If the older adult is eating much less than usual, shows no interest in even their favorite foods, or is losing weight, talk to the doctor. Some things you can do at home to ensure the senior gets enough nutrition are:
- Allow the older adult to eat whenever they feel hungry instead of restricting eating to meal times.
- Make every bite count by offering foods that are high in nutrients.
- Encourage physical activity since it may stimulate appetite.
#2 Nausea and Vomiting
Cancer treatment often causes the patient to feel sick to their stomach. They may even vomit. Not only do nausea and vomiting make your loved one feel worse, they can also lead to malnutrition and dehydration. Be sure to tell the doctor if the older adult is experiencing these side effects as they may be able to prescribe an anti-nausea medication. Steps you can take to help are:
- Certain foods are more likely to make the older adult feel sick, like fried, greasy, sweet, or spicy foods. If these kinds of foods cause a problem, avoid them.
- For some people, having a snack before treatment helps prevent nausea. For others, avoiding food before treatment helps. Determine which works better for your aging relative and stick with it.
- Offer lots of liquids to prevent dehydration, but remind them to drink slowly, taking small sips.
Your family member may feel extremely tired, even after resting. This is called fatigue. Even after treatment has ended, the person may feel fatigued for months. Some ways to deal with cancer-related fatigue are:
- Schedule activities for times of the day when your aging relative usually feels less fatigued.
- Allow the senior to take naps during the day but try to keep them to an hour or less at a time. Sleeping too much may make it harder to sleep at night.
- Talk to a dietician about which foods can help increase energy.
- Help with tasks around the house so the senior can save their energy for things they enjoy.
#4 Hair Loss
Cancer treatment can cause hair to fall out in chunks, leaving unsightly bald patches. Both men and women may be upset by hair loss. Usually, if the patient is going to lose their hair, it begins to fall out within 2 weeks and the loss gets worse within a month or two. Hair loss is usually temporary. Some tips for managing hair loss are:
- Help the older adult to choose a wig, hats, or scarves that make them feel better.
- Be gentle with hair during treatment. Use a soft bristled brush or a wide-toothed comb. Also, avoid products that can harm the scalp.
- Use sunscreen or a hat to protect the scalp from sunburn.
Edema is swelling caused by fluid building up in tissues. Medications may cause the body to retain water or salt. It can also be due to damaged organs. If your aging relative is suffering from edema, you may notice swelling in their arms, legs, face, or abdomen. The skin can look tight and shiny or may dent after you press it. The older adult may also feel short of breath, have a cough, or their heart may beat irregularly. It’s important to report signs of edema to the doctor as there are some serious problems associated with it. Some ways to manage edema at home are:
- Remind the older adult to wear loose fitting clothing.
- Keep feet elevated when the older adult sits.
- Exercise to improve circulation.
- Limit the amount of salt in their diet.
In addition to the tips offered above, another way to help manage the side effects of cancer treatment is to hire a home health care provider. Home health care providers can make sure the older adult gets enough nutrition by preparing foods that are easy to eat and don’t worsen nausea or vomiting. They can also take care of household tasks, such as cleaning and laundry. Home health care providers can also assist the older adult to be as physically active as possible. Since cancer treatment may cause your family member to be unsteady on their feet, a home health care provider can walk with them to make certain they do not fall.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring Home Health Care Services in Gilbert AZ, please contact the caring staff at Devoted Guardians today. Affordable In-Home Care in the Phoenix Metro Area. Call Today: (800) 699-4781 or (480) 999-3012.
Aaron spent 5 years working for Intel Corporation in Chandler, Arizona right out of college until he ventured off on his own. Aaron has owned and operated successful small businesses for the past 10 years.
Aaron is currently the CEO and owner of Devoted Guardians a Non-Medical In Homecare Agency covering the entire Phoenix valley. Aaron has been CEO since 2012 and running businesses since 2005.
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