Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer that American doctors diagnose, with around 130,000 new cases each year. While advances in treatment methods have helped cut the number of people who die from the disease, doctors still estimate that the disease kills around 50,000 people per year. As such, many people must contend with the prospect of palliative care. Learn what palliative care means to a colorectal cancer patient, and find out how you may need to support a loved one during this difficult period.
Colorectal cancer treatment by stage
Most colorectal cancer patients undergo surgery in the early stages of the disease. During the later stages of the disease, patients may need chemotherapy or radiation therapy to treat cancer that has grown or has returned following earlier surgical treatment.
If the disease persists, doctors may diagnose Stage IV cancer. At this point, surgery is unlikely to cure the disease, but the patient’s medical team may recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy to slow the cancer’s progression and to control pain symptoms. This stage of palliative care can lead to a host of physical and psychological problems for the patients, which make the carer’s role even more vital.
The purpose of palliative care
For many patients, any mention of palliative care can seem like a death sentence. Many people believe that this simply means the medical team is sending them away to die, so carers play a vital role in helping a patient cope with this transition in their care.
This stage of treatment aims to give patients the support they need to react quickly to changes in their health. The patient’s medical team will work together to more effectively control pain and other symptoms, so the patient and his or her loved ones can enjoy a good quality of life. A doctor will recommend palliative care as early in the patient’s treatment plan as necessary, as this will often achieve the best results.
How you can help
Many doctors recommend enhanced recovery programs for people with colorectal cancer. Even at an advanced stage in the disease, this approach can help the patient recover more quickly and can avoid certain side effects. As a carer, you can play an important role in this process. You may need to help the patient eat healthily and exercise as much as possible before the surgery. After the surgery, carers can sometimes take on some of the tasks that a nursing team would undertake in hospital, so the patient can go home sooner. Your loved one’s medical team can give you more information about this approach.
As a carer, you will probably also need to help your loved one cope with many ‘normal’ physical tasks. For example, a lot of colorectal cancer patients must learn to cope with a stoma and an external bag after surgery. Your loved one will have regular visits from a stoma care nurse, but, as a carer, you will often also play an important role.
Even though they are wearing a stoma, some patients still find that they need to pass discharge from their back passage. Carers may need to help people use the toilet, and you may also need to help the patient wash and keep clean. Support from a carer can help cancer patients adjust to these routines more quickly and with less embarrassment.
Your loved one’s medical team can help you find out more about the physical tasks your loved one may find increasingly difficult.
Crucially, carers often help people come to terms with their disease. At an early stage in the palliative care process, your loved one may feel better if he or she can make decisions about some of the choices that may come later. For example, you may need to find out what your loved one needs to do where you live to set up a legally binding living will.
50,000 Americans die from colorectal cancer every year, and many of these people rely on a full-time carer during their palliative care. If someone you love has colorectal cancer, talk to his or her medical care team about the role you can play. If you find that caring for your loved one is a little overwhelming, you can also hire a home caregiver, such as those at Devoted Guardians, and you can supplement any additional needs with your own service.
If you’re receiving home health care after an illness or injury that has impaired your mobility, your personal safety should be a top priority. Fortunately, there are products that can help you remain safe during your recovery period and beyond. To complement your home health care and ensure your safety, consider investing in the following products:
1. Reclining Lift Chair
If you need assistance sitting or standing from your chair, this specialized furniture can help. It’s very useful for those recuperating from a debilitating injury or illness, or simply as an aid for arthritis patients. Basically, a lift chair is a recliner with a motorized feature that actually “lifts” the chair from the base to an upright position. This feature will help you rise from the chair with minimal effort, thus keeping you safe as you do.
Not all lift chairs are alike, however. Depending upon your needs and personal preference, you may prefer a two, three or infinite position lift chair. The two and three position chairs are ideal for reading and watching TV. The infinite position will actually recline all the way to a flat position, making it suitable for napping or relaxing.
For your safety, choose a lift chair with an interlocking frame. This reinforcement will provide strength. The chair’s leg levers should be constructed of stainless steel for durability and long wear. You might want to check the weight capacity as well.
2. Toilet Seat Riser
Much like the concept of a lift chair, the toilet seat riser will assist you as you sit or stand from the toilet. Generally, the riser adds about four inches in height to the toilet seat. Most have a hook and loop attachment.
Choose a toilet seat riser that offers a cushioned feel with a padded seat. This may help relieve pressure points, a helpful feature if you’re recovering from a joint-related injury or arthritis. It should have an easy to clean and disinfect vinyl upholstery.
3. Shower and Bathtub Bench
As part of your home health care, bathroom safety is a must. Did you know the bathroom is considered the most dangerous room in the house? Since you are recovering from an illness or injury, you may be more vulnerable to a dangerous fall. If you are having difficulty getting in and out of the bathtub or shower, a bathtub and shower bench may help.
Do you need extra back support as well? Look for a bathtub bench that is ergonomically designed with a special curve and backrest. The chair should have drainage holes in the seat, as this will provide protection from slipping and sliding. Suction tips on the bottom of the legs provide extra stability in the tub.
4. A Shower and Bathtub Grab Bar
Another safety essential for your at home health care, the shower grab bar may be installed with fasteners or suction cups. For maximum stability, choose a stainless steel grab bar with mounting hardware. A textured grip is helpful, too. In addition to installing a grab bar in the tub, consider adding one near the toilet.
5. Safety Bed Handles
As you recover at home, don’t overlook safety in the bedroom. You may find that bed handles can provide extra safety and prevent you from falling out of bed. These aids not only assist you when rising from the bed, they also provide support when rolling over. Choose sturdy aluminum constructed bed rails. If you use a hospital bed for home health care, be sure the rails are designed to fit.
These are just a few of the products you should consider for your recovery at home. Although your home health care provider is there to assist you in your recovery, these personal safety products and devices can provide you with the extra protection you need now and in the future.