N.C. Cancer Prevention and Control Branch: Caregiving
Typically, the daily caregiver is a family member. The caregiver is often the spouse or child of the cancer patient. Most caregivers are not trained to be a caregiver. Caregiving is very stressful and can affect the health of the caregiver.
Caregiver support services are very important. Once accessed, these services can provide helpful advice on the patient’s problems, how to give drugs, and how to know a medical emergency to the caregiver. The caregiver is also told about home support services that might help with transportation, shopping, planning meals, and household and lawn work. Financial counseling helps the caregiver deal with family financial problems caused by a loss of income and increased medical costs. Caregivers are urged to build a support system they can count on. Respite care, if available, gives time off for the caregiver.
Palliative care, sometimes called comfort care, helps to relieve the pain, symptoms or problems, and stress of serious disease. Palliative care is usually given by a medical care team. The goal is to make every day living better for all patients and survivors, as well as their families and other loved ones.
Palliative care helps to make patients and survivors more comfortable at every stage of cancer, even at diagnosis.
The symptoms that are most often taken care of or eased by palliative care include:
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Fatigue and weakness
- Sleep problems
- Bowel and bladder problems
- Depression and anxiety
- Having a hard time breathing
End of Life Care and Hospice Care
End of life is the time period when health care professionals believe the patient will die with the next six months. Terminal illness (leading to death) makes the cancer patient, family, and other loved ones face death and dying issues. During the dying process, it can be hard on the patient, family, and other loved ones to keep up positive feelings.
Care provided during end of life, or the dying phase, supports the life lived and sees dying as normal. Usually, each person with cancer faces death in the same way as s/he has lived life. Each person faces death in her/his own way and in her/his own time.
A good end of life or hospice care plan can give the best possible quality of life, where pain is controlled and a dignified, safe, and comfortable death is more likely.
Hospice care is the gold standard for end of life care. A team of health care professionals and volunteers usually provides medical, psychological, and spiritual support. The goal of the hospice care is to help people who are dying have peace, comfort, and dignity.
Some people think palliative care is the same as hospice care, but it is not the same thing. Palliative care can be given at any time and hospice care is always given for the dying person.
Hospice care is given to a dying person:
- Who no longer wants treatment to be cured;
- Who does not expect to live longer than six months; or
- Who wants satisfaction with end of life care.
There are many reasons patients ask for hospice care late in the dying process:
- The patient or family may not want to be thought of as dying;
- The patient or family may not want to give up treatment;
- The patient or family may be waiting for the doctor to begin to talk about the dying process or hospice care; or
- The doctor may not want to bring up a talk about hospice because of not being sure of how the patient or family will react.
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Last Modified: June 10, 2019