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Assisted Living for Cancer Patients

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Assisted Living for Cancer PatientsLearning that you or someone you love has cancer is devastating. Once the shock of the diagnosis has worn off and the resolve to face the condition head-on has settled in, it is time to move forward. For caregivers and patients alike, there are many important decisions that will need to be made. Treatment decisions, long term care decisions, and even recovery options will need to be discussed. Everyone wants the best possible care for their loved ones, and some seniors may have other health conditions to consider.

What Options Are Available for Seniors with Cancer?

Many seniors will remain at home or move in with a loved one during their treatment. For those who need a higher level of care or who simply prefer not to burden their family, assisted living for cancer patients is a good option. Assisted living for seniors offers a dedicated level of care all hours of the day and night. Cancer treatments and even the symptoms of cancer itself can be challenging to live with, especially if those offering care have a full-time schedule of their own to manage. Assisted living homes are particularly helpful for seniors who are suffering from cancer and those who are receiving cancer treatments.

Choosing the Right Senior Care Setting for A Cancer Patient

A very important question that families of loved ones with cancer ask is: “How do I find assisted living facilities near me that provides care to cancer patients?” There are a few steps to take in order to choose the right care setting for the senior in your life. The first step is a proper understanding of their cancer diagnosis. Speak with your senior loved one as well as their medical care team. This usually will be a group of medical professionals made up of their regular doctor, a radiologist, oncologist, pathologist and perhaps even a team for palliative care. No two types of cancer are the same, and each person will respond differently to treatment, so the right care is critical to ensure successful treatment.

Some questions to consider when choosing a short- or long-term care solution for your loved ones are:

  • Based on your current information, can the cancer be treated?
  • What stage of (specific) cancer is the senior in?
  • How does the current stage affect their options for treatment?
  • What treatment options are available and how long will they last?
  • Are additional tests needed to determine the best treatment for their cancer?
  • Will treatment occur in a medical facility or clinic?
  • What side effects can be expected?
  • Is there a way to minimize the treatment side effects?
  • Will regular tests and screenings be a part of their cancer treatments?
  • Does their cancer diagnoses affect any of their existing conditions?
  • What type of nutritional needs will they have during and after their treatment?

The answers to many of these questions will help you determine which type of senior care facility is best suited for your loved one. Many assisted living communities offer a diverse set of cancer care services for seniors, however, not all levels of care are available. Some hospice services may only be available in a nursing home for example. The more you know about the diagnosis and the needs involved, the better long-term care decisions you can make for your loved one.

Is Age Something I Should Consider?

When cancer strikes, it can take a serious toll on the body and the mind. Cancer that strikes an elderly person presents an even more complex challenge. Seniors tend to have slower healing times, less strength, and even trouble with balance due to general aging. Other age-related complications to consider are depression, bone loss, dementia, hearing loss, mobility issues, and other reductions in cognitive facilities. Some older people may also suffer from secondary conditions such as obesity, heart disease or diabetes that can drastically affect how their cancer can be treated. There are many risks involved in cancer treatment, especially if one of the treatment options is surgery. Depending on the stage of cancer, its location and the overall health of the patient, chemotherapy may even be more harmful than helpful in the elderly.

Before treatment and also before moving into an assisted living community for cancer patients, the senior's age should be considered. Speak with the healthcare team and with the senior in question in regards to pain management options, treatment outcomes, and potential complications that may arise during their treatment. It is a good idea to cross-check with the assisted living facility you are considering to make sure that they are able to accommodate the level of care your loved one will need. 

When Senior Cancer Care in Assisted Living Makes Sense

Senior care facility such as an assisted living community offers a wealth of critical benefits to seniors who are suffering from cancer. One of the key benefits of assisted living is the security of care and the reliability of a safe living environment. Seniors who reside in an assisted living community are provided with several nutritious hot meals and snacks each day, and they are given a room this is kept tidy and clean. Supportive caregivers are available around the clock to provide assistance with medication, grooming, trips to the bathroom and even to offer emotional support during their darkest hours.

When considering assisted living for your loved one, think about their long term needs as well as their short-term treatment options. Depending on the type and stage of cancer, assisted living may be a perfect choice, or they may need more intensive nursing care.

While many seniors may choose to fight their condition, an equal number of those prefer to let cancer take its course. For seniors who choose not to treat their cancer, assisted living communities that offer hospice care is a way to live out their days in comfort. Hospice care in assisted living homes will provide seniors with the emotional support they need to come to terms with their mortal end as well as help with pain management arrangements. Some states prohibit assisted living facilities from offering hospice care, so make sure to check the law and regulations in your state when considering your options.

When Assisted Living May Not Be Appropriate

Assisted living communities are great places for seniors who are suffering from cancer to get the support they need to thrive. Seniors who have a minor cancer diagnosis or cancer that was caught in the early stage may benefit from the services offered in assisted living care. Those who have a more serious diagnosis that will eventually lead to serious medical assistance will be better suited to a nursing home facility.

Assisted living communities are unable to offer medical care, though they are able to offer assistance with other non-medical related concerns. Caregivers in assisted living centers are able to ensure that medications are taken on time, doctors' appointments are attended and even may have visiting nurses or medical professionals on-site, but they are unable to administer any medication themselves. If your loved one will take chemotherapy treatments in their room or wherever they live, it is important to note that assisted living home staff are unable to assist with these treatments.

How to Choose an Assisted Living Community for Seniors with Cancer

Choosing a facility that offers quality care for your loved one is very important. For seniors who are suffering from cancer, the right care setting is even more important. When searching for an assisted living home for your loved one who suffers from cancer, there are a few things you should consider.

You should start your search by looking for assisted living communities in your area that specifically state that they offer care for seniors with cancer. Look for reviews on the facility’s website and also cross-check those reviews with other independent sources. Reviews from actual residents and families on places other than the home website will give you a good idea about their services and the environment at the home.

Ask your family, friends, neighbors and even your primary doctor for recommendations. Often, they will be able to give you suggestions about assisted living homes they have personal experience with and that may be suitable for your needs. Some hospitals have social workers and discharge planners that work with seniors and their families. These critical personnel will be able to give you reliable advice regarding long term care and also suggest facilities that can accommodate seniors with specific conditions. 

Once you have a list of homes that meet your needs, make an appointment to visit each location in person. Assisted living communities may seem like the perfect choice on paper, but in person, the layout, atmosphere, or even the distance may not suit your preferences. It is a good idea to visit each location more than once and at different times during the day. Make an appointment with the enrollment officer to visit for a detailed tour during the week. For your second visit, drop in without announcing your plan during meal times or at midday. This will give you an idea of how things work in the facility and you will be able to observe unplanned interactions between the staff and the existing residents.

What Questions Should You Ask Regarding Cancer Care?

Selecting an assisted living community specifically for senior cancer care needs a bit more research than usual. There are some important questions that you should ask when considering each facility, such as:

  • Does the assisted living home offer specialized care for seniors with cancer as their condition worsens?
  • Is a nurse available on duty at the facility? Are private nurses allowed at the facility?
  • For assisted living homes that offer periodic doctor visits, how often does the physician see residents?
  • What does the facility physicians care entail and how do they communicate with a senior's primary care physician?
  • Does the assisted living community offer hospice care?
  • What are the procedures for handling a medical emergency?
  • If your loved one is suffering from dementia, does the assisted living community offer memory care?
  • Is travel provided to and from hospital visits? Is there an extra fee?

There is no perfect decision when it comes to long term care for seniors who are suffering from cancer. The best choice you make will be to place them in an assisted living facility that is properly equipped to help them manage their condition and support their recovery. Cancer affects each person differently, so the environment that allows them to thrive will be the best option for their individual journey.

Understanding the Challenges of Seniors with Cancer in Assisted Living

Cancer is difficult for anyone who is facing it, but with elderly patients living in an assisted living facility, it can be especially difficult. Elderly patients often have less physical strength, impaired balance, and a lower rate of healing than younger patients.

Pain management is also one of the most difficult challenges faced by elderly cancer patients. Many cancer drugs are given alongside with pain medications, but unfortunately, the vast majority of pain medications are considered unsafe for seniors. As a result, there often has to be a custom-made plan for each elderly patient during their fight against cancer. Living in an assisted living facility can be difficult because approval for medication changes must be made by their regular doctor, and this can cause delays, which may mean a night of pain or discomfort for the senior.

Choosing an assisted living home that specifically caters to seniors will cancer will reduce discomfort and help seniors to thrive. Paired with the resident's treatment team, caregivers can devise an actionable plan that improves a senior's quality of life during and after their cancer treatment.

The Bottom Line

There are many conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and hypertension that are considered age-related diseases. Cancer can strike anyone at any age, but it is also considered a disease of aging. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, aging is one of the prime risk factors for the development of cancer. Age, other conditions, and general health greatly affect how a person will respond to cancer treatment. When considering your long-term options for senior care, it is important to keep all of these factors in mind.

In most cancer patients, the needs of the patient will change as the condition progresses or as the treatment moves forward towards success. Many seniors are able to stay at home or with their loved ones during the initial stages of cancer and may need to move into an assisted living home as their care needs increase. Assisted living communities offer a wealth of physical and emotional support that many seniors need during their fight against this ravaging disease.

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