How Can You Help Your Patient Cope With Cancer Survivorship?
Pegasus in-home care specialists in Newhall and elsewhere provide clients with whatever level of assistance they need. Some require help recovering from a debilitating illness. Career home health care nurses understand how to help their patients cope with cancer survivorship.
People often think that surviving cancer means that the individual successfully completed treatment. But survivorship is a journey that begins the day the cancer is diagnosed. It continues for the rest of the person’s life.
For some, the journey is uneventful. For most, it’s filled with challenges and endless adjustments. The moment they receive the diagnosis, the individual’s life is forever changed.
Even minimal treatment leaves the patient’s body exhausted. Few individuals are able to resume what had been their usual routine and flow of life. Cancer means adjusting to a “new normal” in their emotional, mental, and physical health.
Coping With Relationship Changes
Some of your patients may experience unexpected changes in their relationships with families and friends. These can include:
- Families who become overprotective
- Formerly close individuals who now avoid your patient when they can
- Individuals who become closer and may provide needed support
- Lack of support from others who your patient thought would “be there” for them
- Resurgence of problems from the past that your patient thought had been resolved
Some people are afraid of saying the wrong thing. Others can’t cope with the illness of a loved one. You can help your patient by providing tips such as the following to family caregivers:
- Avoid comparisons, offering advice, or commenting about their appearance
- Don’t ignore their loved one, even if they’re uncomfortable trying to stay connected
- Follow their loved one’s lead in choosing what to talk about
Each family is different. Talk with your patient about their feelings and how they can relate to those for whom they care.
If your patient becomes too disturbed by the reactions of others, you may need to arrange for counseling. Stress hampers the progress of their recovery.
Coping With Survivor’s Guilt
As their nurse, you’ll be assisting your patient with all aspects of their health. Along with everything else, you may discover they’re blaming themselves for their cancer. Survivors’ guilt is common.
Sometimes they think they could have prevented cancer if only they had:
- Consulted a doctor sooner
- Paid attention to their symptoms
- Practiced good lifestyle habits
- Done anything differently
In short, they wouldn’t be sick if they had made better choices. And why are they surviving when others have succumbed to their disease? Allow them to express those feelings and offer reassurance that they’re not alone.
Family caregivers may also be experiencing their own versions of guilt. Grief plays a role as well. You may need to arrange counseling for the patient and their caregivers.
A Care Treatment Plan Helps You And Your Patient
The medical team probably provided your patient with a treatment care plan. Among other helpful information, it summarizes the treatment and follow-up requirements. If a plan wasn’t provided, use your expertise to help your patient construct one.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) provides free templates for your use that the American Society of Clinical Oncology developed. One is for treatment, and one is for treatment and survivorship. They also provide templates designed to track specific cancers, such as breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate, among others.
You can personalize the plans as much as you and your patient want. Use them to help your patient understand what is happening with their health. Monitoring their progress helps improve their outlook.
ACS also provides guidelines for follow-up care. These are designed for your use as a professional healthcare provider. They also offer resources that include a cancer survivorship toolkit.
Coping With Fear Of Recurrence
Post-treatment fear of their cancer recurring is a significant concern for many individuals. Let your patients know that they can discuss these worries with you. Reassure them that their feelings are normal.
Some patients may express concern about every little symptom they feel. You can modify the treatment plan or care plan so they can record those symptoms. Then you can discuss all the issues with them.
Although everyone is potentially at risk for cancer, individuals who have had it once face greater risk. Their cancer may recur, or they may develop a new cancer. Recording their symptoms can help you ensure that your patient gets appropriate treatment promptly.
Some of the risk factors can be reduced, and others cannot. As a nurse, you’re always aware of cancer symptoms; however, you need to be extra vigilant with your cancer patients. Unhealthy lifestyle habits are one area in which you can help patients reduce their risk.
If they smoke, encourage them to stop. Work with the dietitian on your Pegasus team to help implement healthy eating habits. Your team includes therapists who will design movements that can help your patient exercise safely.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our in-home caregivers in Newhall and our other locations know how to help patients through cancer survivorship. Our career home health care nurses are dedicated to improving the quality of life for others.