Caring for Senior Cancer Patients

In 2010, caregiving organizations provided in-home services to approximately 12 million people. Many of these people were seniors with terminal cancers like mesothelioma or long-term illnesses such as asbestosis. The number of senior cancer patients who seek out in-home care has drastically increased since 1965, when Medicare began covering home healthcare services for the elderly.

Caregivers may work with senior cancer patients for a number of different reasons. Patients may want companionship or assistance with tasks that are getting too difficult for them to handle. They may need help with transportation or reminders to take medications.

Some of the most common tasks a caregiver may help a senior with include:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Running errands
  • Taking prescriptions
  • Preparing meals
  • Light housekeeping

Some seniors may require 24-hour health monitoring in addition to these services. Although caregivers typically do not play a role in the patient’s medical treatment, their presence can be reassuring during a health emergency. Caregivers who provide health monitoring can help patients safely remain in their homes when the alternative is a residential facility.

Evaluating the Needs of Cancer Patients

A patient’s specific needs often depend on the severity of their condition. Patients with advanced cancers are more likely to need a higher level of care. Patients may need minimal care when they begin working with a caregiver and slowly request additional help as their cancer progresses.

Caregivers may also need to provide more care to patients with a highly symptomatic cancer than they would with patients who have a more mild disease. Even highly independent patients tend to need extra assistance when their symptoms are flaring up. Fatigue and pain can make it extremely difficult for patients to handle all of their responsibilities on their own.

Caregivers should encourage patients to ask for additional care when their bodies are too fatigued to handle certain responsibilities. This allows patients to channel more of their energy into recovery. Some caregivers research their patient’s cancer by subscribing to an outreach blog.

Author bio: Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for The Mesothelioma Center. One of her focuses is living with cancer.

National Association for Home Care and Hospice: Basic Statistics about Home Care. (2010). Retrieved from