First in a Series of Tips for Caregivers on How to Manage Chemotherapy Side-effects
The side effects of chemotherapy can present cancer patients and caregivers with a number of challenges. A service DTN Home Care provides is in-home care and assistance with daily activities for families and those undergoing chemotherapy treatments. To further assist those caring for chemotherapy patients, we are beginning a series of blogs with tips for caregivers on how to manage some of the more common side effects of cancer treatment. The first five topics covered will be Fatigue, Pain, Nausea and Vomiting, Poor Appetite and Nutrition Guidelines. Every person experiences the side effects of chemotherapy differently, both physically and emotionally. Please consult your professional care provider for patient-specific instructions.
Managing Cancer-Related Fatigue
Fatigue can be one of the most common and distressing side effects of cancer and its treatment. We all feel extremely tired from time to time, but the fatigue that accompanies chemotherapy is often much more intense.
Fatigue is often caused by more than one problem. As part of the health care team, you might have to try several different things to help manage and relieve fatigue, but a program of regular exercise, stress-management, and ways to deal with anxiety and depression seem to help most people cope with it more successfully.
Help the person you’re caring for to follow these 8 tips:*
1. Save energy for what is most important
Because your patient can’t do everything she wants to do, help her decide which things are the most important and focus on those tasks. Encourage her to do things more slowly and, whenever possible, let others help. This can help family members and friends feel useful and get needed tasks done, too.
2. Use distraction
Sometimes feeling tired can become so discouraging and frustrating that it becomes all the patient thinks about. Try to distract him with activities, like listening to music, visiting with friends or family, reading a book, or other things that don’t take too much energy.
3. Encourage attention-restoring activities
Activities like walking in a park, sitting in a peaceful setting, gardening, or doing things for others can help the cancer patient to relax and focus better. Meditation or guided imagery can distract the mind from thinking about fatigue, without leaving home.
4. Reduce stress
Talk with a social worker or nurse on the health care team about your patient’s level of stress. Try to find out if it’s “normal” stress or if it is closer to clinical anxiety or depression. Support groups, mental health counseling, stress management training, and relaxation exercises are some ways for your patient to overcome tiredness and fatigue.
Research has shown that there are aerobic and strength-building exercise programs—started only with a doctor’s OK—that can improve energy and activity level and can lead to better body function. The result can also be feeling better about one’s life and well-being. A trained physical therapist can build stamina and create an exercise routine that you can encourage the patient to follow. Not only can the right amount and type of exercise help fatigue, it can also help your patient sleep better.
6. Get nutrition counseling
Many cancer patients have changes in the way they eat, swallow, and taste things during treatment. Talking with a registered dietitian can help to ensure that your patient is getting enough fluids and nutrients to help keep blood chemistry balanced and to boost energy levels.
7. Improve sleep
Sleep problems are common during cancer treatment. Trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much can occur. Certain drugs that are used to treat pain, nausea, or depression can cause a person to feel tired and sleepy. Sometimes adjusting the doses or changing to a different drug can help. Talk to the doctor before making any changes to medication.
Sleep experts have proved that having regular times to go to bed and get up helps us keep a healthy sleep routine. Avoiding caffeine for at least 8 hours before bed can help, too. Exercising too late in the evening may cause sleep problems. Keep naps short (under an hour) and early in the day so they don’t interfere with nighttime sleep. A mental health professional may be able to work with the patient on causes and how to address sleep problems.
8. Ask about medicines
There are some medicines that might help with fatigue. If fatigue is bad enough, the doctor or nurse might recommends a stimulant medicine for a short time. Anti-depressant drugs and steroids have also been used to help fatigue.
DTN Home Care can assist you or your loved one who is undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Our licensed and experienced caregivers can help in a number of ways, including:
- Make the patient more comfortable
- Help the patient stay free from infection
- Prepare meals that ensure healthy living and promote recovery
- Do housekeeping chores
- Run errands
- Provide companionship
To inquire about in home healthcare from DTN Home Care for yourself or a loved one, call 701.663.5373.
*The 8 tips in this blog were adapted from the cancer.org website.