Cancer can happen at any age – but the older someone becomes, the more likely they are to develop the disease. This is because advancing age is the greatest risk factor for developing cancer. Half of all cancers occur in people over the age of 70. In fact, if everyone could live long enough, then everyone would have a 100% chance of developing cancer.
Unfortunately, with advancing age also comes health problems which exacerbate the symptoms of cancer and complicate treatment options for the disease. For example, patients suffering from both cancer and dementia experience worse outcomes than patients who suffer from only one of the conditions. Likewise, patients who already have osteoporosis are at risk of even greater bone loss due to cancer’s direct effects on bone cells. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy both accelerate bone loss as well.
To make matters worse, many conventional cancer treatments are unsafe for the elderly. Opioids, which are administered to alleviate pain, have a heightened risk of causing disorientation, disordered breathing, heart problems, and nausea in the elderly. Everolimus, a medication commonly prescribed to treat the symptoms of breast cancer, has an increased risk of severe side effects in the elderly as well. For these and many other reasons, several cancer treatments are not viable options for many elderly patients.
How Can an Elderly Cancer Patient’s Family Help?
Assuring the best quality of life for an elderly cancer patient is a team effort. If the patient is willing and able to receive treatment, then members of their family can play just as crucial a role as their healthcare providers.
Most elderly cancer patients receive assistance from family members. This may include help taking their medications, going to and from treatment facilities, and performing daily activities such as dressing and meal preparation. Family members are also the most important source of emotional support for elderly cancer patients, which has a profound effect on the overall quality of life.
Their family members can also help an elderly cancer patient to determine whether pursuing treatment is a good option. Patients who are at an especially advanced age, already suffering from conditions which would make treatment unusually dangerous or uncomfortable, or no longer capable of making rational health care choices may rely on their family members’ assistance in deciding whether to receive treatment or forego it altogether.
How Can Assisted Living Help an Elderly Cancer Patient?
If you are a family member of an elderly cancer patient, then you must weigh several factors while determining whether you are able to meet your elderly relative’s needs. Questions you should ask yourself include:
- Are you able to take care of your loved one at home?
- Are you able to administer medications and operate specialized medical equipment?
- Are you able to quickly respond to health care emergencies?
- Will you still be able to take care of your loved one at home should their condition worsen?
It is realistic to be daunted by the amount of care your loved one will require once they have been diagnosed with cancer. Your parent or grandparent will require greater than average care and supervision, which you may be unable to provide given your physical limitations, your preexisting obligations to your own children, and your already demanding work schedule.
You would not be alone in concluding that you are unable to provide all of the assistance your loved one needs to receive the best outcome. That is why many families rely on assisted living residences when their loved ones are diagnosed with or battling cancer.
Assisted living residences are increasingly embracing the philosophy of aging in place, wherein seniors receive the health care they have chosen without permanently relocating to a different facility. Such residences possess the resources to administer treatments prescribed by their residents’ oncologists and primary care physicians, including intravenous chemotherapy and antibiotics. They can also help to manage their residents’ pain, ensure they are properly nourished, and quickly transport them to and from treatment centers. They are further qualified to assist residents regardless of whether they are receiving treatment, hospice or palliative care.
If your loved one has recently been diagnosed with cancer, or if they are currently undergoing treatment for cancer that you are no longer able to fully assist with, then we welcome you to contact Morgan Lane Village today. Our assisted living facility in Tea, South Dakota regularly provides the care cancer patients need to receive their best health outcomes, and we would be honored to answer any questions you might have during this difficult time.