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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Cancer caregiving at home? Here’s a guide from A to Z

Cancer Caregiving
from A to Z
By Peggy Sarlin

If you're a caregiver to someone with cancer, you're forced to be a hero. Suddenly, you're the Comforter-in-Chief, consoling your loved one through hours of anxiety and pain. You're the Master Scheduler, supervising appointments, treatments, and transportation. You're Chief Financial Officer, handling insurance paperwork, while keeping the family finances from vaporizing. And that's just for starters.
Cancer patients often need skilled nursing care when they come home – and you might have to provide it, even though you lack training. You may be so tired that you finally understand the phrase "bone-weary": your bones really do hurt. You may just want to fling yourself down on your bed and cry. But you've got to pull yourself together and give your loved one his medications, or monitor his symptoms, or hook up his intravenous antibiotics.
If any of this sounds like you, or someone you know, I can help. . .
Continued below…

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You need all the help you can get, so I want to recommend a book. I asked my friend Cindy, a home care expert, to find a truly useful book on cancer caregiving. She recommended Cancer Caregiving A-to-Z: An At-Home Guide for Patients and Families, and now that I've read it, I can see why.
It's surprisingly tough to find a caregiving book that feels user-friendly. Most of them are filled with thick, technical paragraphs that give you a headache just looking at them, or they contain encouraging, but empty fluff.Cancer Caregiving A to Z is different.
For one thing, it's organized in the easiest possible way, alphabetically addressing topics from Anxiety to Weight Changes. (They cheated; there is no Z.) Each section gives you crucial background information, then lists "What the Patient Can Do", "What Caregivers Can Do"; and "When to Call the Doctor." Even if you're so exhausted that you can barely open your eyes, you'll still be able to read this book. Order on Amazon, if you're interested.
I'm glad I did. I found much here to interest me, since I'm the caregiver to my husband, who's recovering from a major stroke that paralyzed his left side. I need to learn as much as I can about Poor Appetite, Pressure Sores, Seizures, and lots of other topics that are well-covered here.
But I'm also impressed by the plentiful advice on problems specific to cancer caregiving. For instance, suppose your family is facing chemotherapy. You can quickly read the chapter devoted to that topic for a good overview of what's coming, and to learn how patient and caregiver can make informed decisions during treatment.
But, in addition, you'll find separate chapters on each of chemotherapy's most common side effects, with expert advice to help ease their difficulties. When should you call the doctor if your loved one is vomiting? What kind of grooming techniques will help you minimize hair loss? What is the optimum time for giving pain medications to a patient with mouth sores? This book's straightforward, easy-to-find answers could make all the difference for your loved one.
As the introduction points out, cancer patients are now living longer, which is good news indeed. But patients are receiving treatments in outpatient settings that used to be performed in a hospital. And often they get discharged early from the hospital, while still suffering from the side effects of the treatment.
These policies force patients to come home in pain and discomfort, putting tremendous demands upon their caregivers. Even if you're already acting as a skilled nurse, home health aide, housekeeper, cook, and chauffeur, you can't neglect your crucial role of medical researcher. Cancer Caregiving A to Z will help to make that role a bit easier, and caregiving heroes need all the help they can get. Click here to order the book from Amazon.

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