In-Home Care Delivers Comprehensive Cancer Services

A registered nurse caring for her husband with late stage cancer discovers the far-reaching benefits of in-home care.

By Clare Absher RN BSN  
Updated: 10/18/2019  
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In-home care services for those with cancer Photo by Yastremska on Bigstock

I discovered the extensive value of in-home care when caring for Jeff, my darling husband who died of prostate cancer. In the past, working as a home health and hospice nurse, I was honored to help countless families care for their loved ones suffering with cancer. However, it wasn’t until my husband was a recipient of in-home care that I fully recognized the broad scope of these invaluable services.

Easing the burden on family caregivers in turn enhances care of those suffering with cancer.

More folks today with cancer are committed to remaining home while recovering, during remissions, and even during the later stages of their illness. Therefore, the burden of care falls upon the shoulders of families who may be up to the task but not necessarily prepared for the job. Rest assured that willing family caregivers will need all the help they can muster to meet the demands of cancer care.

I recall often being extremely worn out during the year of my husband’s illness, similar to most family caregivers even despite my nursing background. In-home care offerings can supply a wide range of support to depleted families. The invaluable services will also supply the means necessary to enhance the overall well-being of loved ones suffering with cancer.

Home health agencies, hospice, and non-medical private duty home care agencies all play a vital role in cancer care at home.

Home health agencies supply nurses, therapists, and home health aides to cancer patients and are typically reimbursed by private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid. 

Hospice care can make an enormous impact in the lives of those facing terminal cancer and their families. Hospice professionals are dedicated to enriching the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of their patients. Families are especially grateful for their expertise and support during this arduous time.

Non-medical home care (aka private duty agencies) are tasked with supplying caregivers who deliver the day to day care to cancer victims. Weary family caregivers are grateful for CNAs (certified nurse assistants) who they come to rely on for a multitude of undertakings. Although most private home care is self-pay, families and their loved ones find these services to be in demand as they offer immeasurable value for cancer care at home. 

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Lab work performed by home health nurses are invaluable to exhausted cancer victims and their families.

Traveling to a simple appointment for routine lab work is an exhausting and dreaded task for families and their loved ones weakened by cancer. My husband and I, like other families, were extremely grateful for our home health nurse who retrieved blood samples followed by transport of the samples to the lab. We were overjoyed to circumvent tedious tasks requiring Jeff to get dressed, negotiate stairs, ambulate with a walker, transfer in and out of car, into the facility, and repeat the entire process to return home. Performing this tiresome exercise two or three times a week will ensure that visits from your home health nurse for labs is a welcome sight.

In-home physical therapy is a big advantage to those during the course of cancer illness.

Initially the physical therapist may be instrumental in securing adaptive equipment in the home needed to ensure your loved one’s safety. Transfer bath seats, grab bars, safety stand up poles, and elevated toilet seats were some practical items that we installed for my husband with the help of his PT. The therapist also assisted Jeff with learning to safely walk outside and transfer in and out of the car while wearing a heavy, cumbersome back brace. I am very sad recalling the fatigue caused by Jeff’s therapy sessions but at the same time was pleased by his commitment to regain some independence.

Medication management via home health and hospice is important to cancer care at home.

Home health nurses communicate changes in a loved one’s condition to the physicians to implement warranted medication changes. Often my husband needed modifications in his blood thinner dosages based on lab results in addition to help weaning on or off of steroid medications. This spared us a great deal of aggravation tracking down doctors and the risk of overlooking important changes to Jeff’s medication regime. Moreover, saving hours dealing with these medical matters meant more precious family time for us.

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Pain management by homecare experts are huge benefit for cancer sufferers and their families.

Home health and hospice nurses are proficient and dedicated to managing the pain of those suffering with cancer.  As my husband’s cancer spread to more bones throughout his body, subsequently his pain intensified. Optimal control of Jeff’s pain was a team effort by the home nurses, physicians, and myself. Home nurses assess pain in their patients and rely on reports from family caregivers to coordinate necessary pain med changes with physicians. Other avenues of pain management are also explored that may be applicable in certain situations such as heat/cold therapy, TENS (transcutaneous electrical stimulation), and acupuncture. As with any distressed wife and caregiver, I was relieved to have the expertise and genuine devotion of in-home nurses to maximize Jeff’s comfort.

Comfort measures carried out by home health and hospice nurses minimizes side effects from cancer treatments. 

Cancer victims find side effects from chemotherapy and radiation are devastating making it a priority to curtail if not eliminate them. In- home nurses carefully monitor fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, and weakened immune systems. My husband Jeff mostly suffered with extreme fatigue due to low blood counts caused by chemo; this was carefully monitored by his home nurse. In other scenarios, the cancer victim may require treatments to mouth and skin for open sores caused by radiation or chemo. Home health nurses act as a liaison between their patients and physicians by monitoring and reporting side effects to better manage them. 

Personal care furnished by HHAs (home health aides) improves hygiene and optimizes comfort.

Personal hygiene should not to be overlooked for those suffering with cancer as it is important to their physical and emotional well-being. However, during the course of a cancer illness personal care can often be difficult for family caregivers to manage due to overwhelming responsibilities. Families welcome an aide to bathe, shampoo, and gently care for the skin of their loved ones who are weak and frail. While Jeff preferred that I help him with personal care, many folks weakened by cancer look forward to some TLC such as a relaxing back massage or refreshing shampoo. Likewise, aides render a deserving break to many families from routine personal care duties.

All-encompassing tasks delegated to CNAs (certified nurse assistants) make a big impact on cancer care at home.

CNAs via non-medical home care agencies are responsible for a wide range of necessary duties such as personal care, light housekeeping, meal preparation, and transport of loved ones to appointments. They are hired for intervals of time each day, part-time, full time, or even around the clock based on families’ needs. The costs are paid for out-of-pocket and vary according to geographic location.Families recognize the inherent value of privately hiring aides to enhance the care of their loved one. CNAs often supplement care or work in conjunction with home health nurses, hospice nurses, and HHAs. Companions can also be hired to sit with loved ones for periods of time giving families free time or much needed respite.

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Clare Absher RN BSN
 

About the Author

Clare Absher is a Registered Nurse with 40 years of experience. Most of her experience is in home health serving as a caregiver, educator, patient advocate, and liaison between families and community resources. She has also worked in acute care, assisted living, and retirement settings. She is passionate about helping families care for their elderly loved ones at home.



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