Dubai: If a cancer patient is being cared for at home, his caregiver is not one individual but a team of family members who have to divide time and work taking into account the physical, physiological, psychological, emotional and even spiritual needs of the patient, according to Dr Mohannad Diab Consultant Oncologist and head of the oncology department at NMC Speciality, Abu Dhabi.
“The hardest part [of care giving] is speaking to a cancer patient’s family and advising them on caregiving. Care giving is a very intensive job that can place enormous strain on a person emotionally and physically and requires a lot of dedication from the family of the cancer patient. Very often the immediate wards of the patient — siblings, parents and cousins — might be holding jobs so it becomes very important for all members to collaborate and divide their time efficiently and efficiently and caregiving has to be carried out relentlessly and round the clock.
Dr Diab provides some suggestions on how to carry on care giving at home.
1. Care giver has to be positive always when he is attending to the cancer patient. No matter what the physical or emotional strain, he or she must not make the patient feel that he is ill or has cancer. This is a big emotional challenge especially with the adult patients who understand their condition. In case of children, perhaps it may be easier to keep them positive with music, fun and games.
2. Deal with the patient exactly as before [the condition was diagnosed] and keep him away from stress. Do not try to limit his or her activities — if an individual had a particular routine like playing a sport, or if he or she can resume going to workplace once at home, let the person do what he wants to.
3. We always counsel parents with cancer children to keep them away from fear of mortality. Do not express sorrow or confusion in front of the patient as it can make him feel vulnerable and affect his psychology
4. Make sure that you maintain the highest levels of hygiene in the patient’s room and at home — bedsheets need to be changed, room needs to be cleaned, sunned and disinfected daily. Visitors must sanitise their hands when in contact with the patient. Anyone with fever or flu must not come in contact with the patient who already has a compromised immunity
5. Make sure that the patient is medicine compliant — draw up a chart and arrange his or her pill box and maintain the correct medication routine
6. Food: It is important to let the patient eat what he likes. Do not follow too much of a restrictive diet, just make sure thing are homemade, nutritiously balanced, wholesome and fresh
7. Protect the patient from loss of self esteem as cancer treatment causes hair loss. In case of chemotherapy, relatives and patients are counselled about the possibility of the hair loss, telling them that it a temporary phase and hair will regrow even better. These days there is the Dignicap — a scalp cooling system that minimises hair loss.
8. Care givers need to work out their shifts well so that the strain of care giving does not get to them.