Cancer is among the leading causes of deaths worldwide, with nearly 9 million people succumbing to this disease every year, according to figures reported by the American Cancer Society. Dealing with cancer can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally, for the patient as well as their family members. It is particularly during the later stages of this disease that the physical and psychological condition of the patient can take a dramatic downturn.
Dealing with the final stages
In the final days of the disease, when it becomes clear that the patient may not survive despite the best efforts of caretakers and the latest medical care, extended treatment could take a toll and result in a faster deterioration of the patient’s health, mental well-being, and quality of life. At this stage, stopping active treatment of the disease can be a step towards ensuring that the final days of a loved one are spent more comfortably, says an article by VNA Health Group.
The first thing to consider when taking such a decision is how much the cancer has progressed. The survival rate for patients in stage 4 drops considerably as the cancer becomes metastatic.
Some families do consider whether there are any clinical trials or experimental treatments available. It is possible to find out whether the patient is eligible for any ongoing clinical trial on the National Institute of Health’s clinical trials website.
End-of-life hospice care
End-of-life caregiving can be extremely challenging for a family member due to several reasons. It is physically and emotionally taxing, as the patient is a loved one, and the family member may have no former training or experience in caregiving. It also leaves the caregiver with little or no quality time to spend with the loved one.
For these reasons, around 1.4 million patients in the US are in end-of-life hospice care, according to figures published by the Center for Disease Control.
What to expect from end-of-life hospice care?
Hospice does not provide medical treatment for the diseases and does nothing to retard the progression of cancer. It involves providing symptomatic treatment, like pain management, to ensure that the patient is as comfortable as possible.
Hospice care is provided by trained professionals, who have experience dealing with patients suffering from cancer. They are highly capable of treating symptoms like fatigue, constipation, shortness of breath, fever and cough. They are trained to provide compassionate care to patients with short life expectancy.
The focus of hospice is to provide better quality of life for the patient and their family. It takes care of all routine tasks that a patient may no longer be capable of performing themselves. This leaves time for family members to spend quality time with their loved one.
Since cancer can cause deep emotional damage. Just the stress of cancer diagnosis often leads to anxiety, a feeling of despair and a sense of helplessness, says an article by National Center for Biotechnology Information. As the disease progresses, anxiety can turn to anger and despair can take a turn towards depression. Hospice provides emotional support to help patients and their family members deal with the situation.
Some hospice centres also have a team of counselors and clergymen to address any spiritual needs the patient might have. It may include meditation classes and denominational counseling to people of all faiths.
Some hospice providers encourage trained volunteers to provide companionship to patients. There may also be other experts, like financial planners who can answer answers regarding insurance and other monetary implications of the disease and demise of the loved one.
Cancer is a disease that takes a huge physical and emotional toll on the patient and those close to them. With professional care and timely decisions, it is possible to provide better quality of life in the final days.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.