By Clare Absher RN BSN Last Updated 8/8/2019
Home-based cancer care is a relatively common practice abroad and has recently been gaining momentum in the United States. Improved quality of care with successful management of many cancer-related symptoms and complications is feasible in the home setting. However, keep in mind that hospital-level care may sometimes be unavoidable.
Clearly folks undergoing cancer treatments benefit by avoiding tedious travel to medical appointments. When faced with extreme fatigue and relentless pain, leaving the home is always a major struggle. Moreover, reducing the risk of exposure to life-threatening infections is vital for vulnerable immunosuppressed cancer patients. Avoiding crowds by staying within the safety of home is undoubtedly the smarter choice for most cancer patients.
It is only natural to be aware of the visible side effects that result from cancer and it's treatments. Hair loss, facial swelling, bloated bellies, and skeletal body frames all contribute to embarrassment and insecurity. Circumventing unnecessary shame when forced to be in public places is yet another benefit of cancer care at home.
Throughout my career as a home health nurse, I witnessed the huge advantages that in-home care offers cancer patients. Although often anxious following discharge from the hospital, these folks found comfort in no time at home surrounded by caring family. Similarly, family caregivers that I encountered who initially felt overwhelmed were soon learning and performing caregiving duties adeptly. I readily discovered that most families are grateful for this special opportunity to care for their loved ones at home. Likewise, their loved ones are appreciative of the genuine compassionate care given to them in their homes.
As a primary caregiver for my late husband Jeff who was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer, I experienced first-hand the advantages of cancer care at home. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, Jeff especially cherished having his grown children live with him during his final year. Although at times bittersweet knowing it would be our last celebrations, we enjoyed spending our holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays together with our family and close friends.
Adapting special home equipment allowed Jeff to experience maximal comfort and safety. Our warm waterbed was soothing to his aching back and the sturdy recliner with a lift mechanism made getting up and down a breeze. Stand up security poles with grab bars were located strategically in his bathroom and bedroom allowing for safe mobility and additional security. Being at home gives you the freedom to customize your space in a way that is accessible, but also unique to your specific needs.
Jeff’s sense of dignity and comfort was always a top priority at home. I was able to manage incontinent issues discreetly and help him dress comfortably. Our home schedule for visitors and travel to appointments were managed with his comfort first in mind. For example, we strictly adhered to avoiding scheduling activities in mornings when Jeff’s pain was greater. When he was on 3-day Fentanyl patches and the 3rd day became less effective, it was a time to stay close to home and exert minimal effort.
As a wife and caregiver for my husband, emotional and physical exhaustion was commonplace and is shared universally by caregivers. Reducing fatigue and sustaining endurance is more likely when caring for your loved one with cancer in the comfort of your home. It is not selfish but sensible for caregivers to prefer to sleep in their own beds and have access to their kitchen nearby for preparing meals. The simple freedom to go outside for a walk or to visit a neighbor can be revitalizing. Caregiver support from friends and family is also crucial and typically more readily available to them at home.