When a loved one reaches the final stages of their cancer, the accompanying physical changes can be uncomfortable or even painful for them and distressing to the people who care about them. But, there are steps that caregivers can take to ease some of the symptoms a cancer patient may experience during the last few months of their life and make the time the family has left together as comfortable as possible.
In the final stages of cancer, your loved one may show some or all the following symptoms:
Palliative and hospice care emphasize easing symptoms and relieving pain in a patient’s final stages of cancer or illness. As a caregiver it’s important for you to accept the circumstance and do your part to help your loved one feel as comfortable as possible.
Prolonged fatigue and/or sleep:
Coordinate with family and friends to plan visits when your loved one is most likely to be awake or when their presence may be most comforting. Ask the doctor about changing their medication regimen. Depending on the extent of their fatigue, your loved one may appreciate having the use of a wheelchair, a walker, or a bedside toilet chair.
Loss of appetite and thirst:
Help spark your loved one’s appetite by serving small frequent meals and eating together as a family. However, try not to show distress when your loved one is eating less. It’s not a sign that their interest in life is waning — it’s simply a natural part of the final stages of their cancer or illness.
Issues with breathing:
Help raise your loved one’s head up, and adjust their sitting or lying position by putting them on their back or slightly to one side. Make sure there are enough pillows to prop their head and chest up. Avoid stuffiness in the air with oxygen or by placing a humidifier in the vicinity. Ask the nurse or doctor if additional medicine may help.
Keep a record of where the pain is, how it feels, its duration, when it starts, and what makes it better or worse. This log can help your loved one’s doctor adjust their pain relief medication, which may include long-acting, time-released opioids, administered via lozenges or skin patches. Very severe pain may warrant a pain medicine pump, which administers the drugs subcutaneously or intravenously. You can do your part to help comfort and soothe your loved one with gentle touching, caressing, and rocking back and forth.
Once the news has been brought that the patient is in their final stages of illness, one of the first things to consider will be where the patient wants to spend their last few months of life. The number one priority at this stage is working to preserve the patient’s comfort and dignity, and empowering them to choose an end-of-life care location can make all the difference. Options may include:
Some patients prefer a home environment, which may call back powerful emotions of family, connection, love, and togetherness. The home may also be more accessible for family and friends to visit and provide emotional as well as practical support. You can choose to take on the caregiver role yourself or use a home care service, depending on what makes sense for you and your family.
Inpatient care focuses on easing the patient’s symptoms, relieving pain, and preserving, as best as possible, a high quality of life in their remaining time. Inpatient care may take the form of assisted living, hospital, or hospice facility — all of which provide dedicated support and attention to the patient around the clock.
Whatever you collectively decide on as a family, the important thing will be to prioritize your loved one’s comfort and dignity throughout the process. Also seek clarity to make sure the decision makes sense financially for everybody involved (see below for how Fifth Season Financial may be able to help).
In addition to physical challenges, the final stages of cancer may also bring about additional financial challenges at the end of a long and costly treatment process. If your family needs supplementary funds to pay for care and ensure your loved one’s quality of life, please contact Fifth Season Financial to learn more about the Funds for Living Program — a way to get funding from your loved one’s life insurance policy that can be used for their care today, without selling the policy.
Relieve financial stress with the Funds For Living Program.