Written by Sean Marchese, MS, RN | Edited By Walter Pacheco | Last Update: May 29, 2024

Taking on Home Nursing as a Caregiver

Caregivers play a critical role. You may need to assist with medications, symptoms, medical appointments and emotional support. 

Care after a procedure is also crucial for mesothelioma patients. Your loved one may need specialized wound care, pain management or physical therapy. Home safety is also a concern.

Providing daily care for a spouse, parent or loved one with mesothelioma can be daunting, but help is available to reduce caregiver burnout. Providing excellent care is a challenge, but it means your loved one can do more of what brings them joy. 

Helping With Medications and Home Medical Devices

Medications and home medical equipment are crucial parts of mesothelioma patients’ care. Caregivers play a vital role in their proper use and upkeep. Knowing possible hazards can help you protect yourself and your loved one.

One area where caregivers may need guidance is in managing medications. Proper storage and disposal prevent accidental ingestion or misuse. For example, if you need to give injections, learn how to prevent a needlestick injury. Caregivers should know each drug’s proper dosage, timing and administration methods. You should also be aware of potential interactions and side effects.

Your loved one may use home medical devices for cancer. Examples include a CPAP machine, Tumor Treating Fields or an oxygen concentrator. Learn how to operate and maintain these devices. This may consist of cleaning and disinfecting the devices. Read the manufacturer’s instructions on replacing filters or other components as needed.

Safety hazards may include electrical malfunctions or oxygen leaks. Know how to respond in case of an emergency. Caregivers can access resources such as training programs or online support groups.

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Assisting With Personal Tasks

Assisting with personal tasks can be one of the most challenging aspects of home health care. Daily rituals can be very intimate and physical. They are demanding duties like bathing and dressing. Providing care means treating your loved one with great sensitivity and respect. 

Caregivers must approach these tasks with empathy and understanding. At the same time, you must also ensure you protect your loved one’s safety and dignity. Have open and honest conversations with your loved ones. 

Every person’s comfort level is different. Some may be uncomfortable with a family member assisting with these personal tasks. Others may prefer it. These discussions help establish trust and a shared understanding of needs and expectations.

Daily caregiver duties may include:
  • Arrange transportation to doctors’ offices, grocery shopping or social events
  • Assisting in daily personal tasks, such as bathing, dressing, grooming and toileting
  • Administering medications and managing medical equipment
  • Checking vital signs and reporting any changes to health care providers
  • Creating a schedule of appointments and accompanying them to medical visits
  • Engaging in social networks and communities and arranging visits from friends and family
  • Performing housekeeping tasks, such as laundry, washing dishes, cleaning and organizing
  • Providing emotional support and companionship
  • Shopping for groceries and preparing meals based on dietary specifications

Nutrition is an essential aspect of care for cancer patients. You may need to seek guidance on meal planning and preparation. You will also likely need to assist with mobility. This may include helping their loved one in and out of vehicles or using a wheelchair.

As caregivers take on these tasks, they must also protect their health and safety. Proper lifting techniques can avoid injury. Keep good hygiene practices, and seek support and resources as needed. 

Tips for Caregivers to Prevent Injury

Caregivers often face physical strain and injury. This can occur while performing tasks such as lifting and moving patients. Be mindful of only taking on tasks that fit your strength and abilities to prevent injuries. Equipment and manual handling methods can decrease strain and increase safety.

Five Top Tips to Prevent Caregiver Injury:
  1. Use proper lifting techniques: When lifting a person or an object, bend your knees, keep your back straight and lift with your legs. Avoid twisting your body while lifting.
  2. Use assistive devices: Devices reduce the risk of injury to both the caregiver and the patient. Use assistive devices if your loved one needs help with standing or transferring. These include transfer belts, patient lifts or gait belts.
  3. Take breaks: Caregiving takes a physical and mental toll. Take frequent breaks to rest and stretch your muscles. Stay hydrated and know your limits.
  4. Maintain good posture: Good posture while sitting and standing avoids back and neck stress. Use a supportive chair and adjust the height of your work surfaces. This technique prevents bending and reaching.
  5. Stay physically fit: Keep up with regular exercise and physical activity. Conditioning will help maintain your strength, flexibility and endurance. This can reduce injury risk and help caregivers perform their duties better.

Home health care workers should know the signs of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Speak with a specialist to learn the necessary precautions to prevent them. Patient advocates at The Mesothelioma Center can help you get needed home medical supplies and equipment. 

Providing Care Following Treatment

Providing care after a surgery or procedure is critical. This care ensures proper healing and manages any potential side effects. Proper wound care prevents infections and promotes healing. Radiation and chemotherapy cause a range of side effects that need specialized care. Using the best practices will allow you to manage these conditions as a caregiver.

After surgery, follow the doctor’s instructions on how to care for the wound. Know how to keep the site clean and dry. Ask what you’ll need to change the dressing. You should also check for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling or discharge. Avoid activities that strain the wound, such as heavy lifting or exercise. Ask the doctor when the patient can resume normal activities.

Radiation therapy can cause burns and other skin damage to the treated area. Proper skin care can help reduce these side effects and promote healing. Keep the skin clean and moisturized. Avoid direct sunlight and avoid clothes that rub against the treated area. The doctor may suggest topical creams or ointments if the skin is irritated or blisters.

Chemotherapy can cause various side effects, such as nausea, fatigue and hair loss. Emotional support and guidance can be helpful for loved ones going through chemo. Offer to go with them to appointments or help with household tasks. Listening and providing encouragement is often the best approach. Encourage hydration, a healthy diet and plenty of rest. 

What Supplies Should You Have Ready?

A well-stocked post-treatment kit and basic first aid kit at home are some of the best tools for a caregiver. They can help caregivers provide immediate care to their loved ones in emergencies

A post-treatment kit should contain supplies specific to the patient’s treatment. These may include:

  • Medical equipment: Your kit may include a blood pressure device, pulse oximeter or incentive spirometer.
  • Medication: Pain relievers may be necessary during recovery. Anti-nausea medication can reduce vomiting after chemo. Aloe vera can soothe skin after radiation.
  • Personal protective equipment: As a caregiver, you should use PPE like gloves and masks. These protect you from harmful chemicals and the patient from infection.
  • Wound care products: Dressings, gauze, bandages and tape will cover wounds and prevent infection. You may need a saline solution and syringe for washing the site.
  • Instructions and contact information: The kit should include clear instructions on using the supplies. It should also have the provider’s contact information for an emergency.
A basic first aid kit should include items such as:
  • Antiseptic wipes or solution: To clean wounds and prevent infection.Bandages: Assorted sizes of adhesive bandages to cover cuts and scrapes.Instant cold packs: To reduce swelling and pain.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: Such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Scissors: To cut gauze, tape, and clothing.
  • Tweezers: To remove splinters and ticks.

It’s essential to keep these kits up-to-date and accessible. Preparation helps ensure that your loved ones receive the care they need when they need it.

How to Know When It’s Time to Seek Help

Knowing when to seek help is crucial when caring for a loved one. It can be challenging to identify when a situation requires medical attention. Here are some signs that may signify it’s time to seek help:

  • Changes in vital signs: Changes in breathing, heart rate or blood pressure may suggest a medical emergency.
  • Emotional changes: Changes in mood or behavior, such as depression or anxiety, may signal a need for more support or medical attention.
  • Inability to perform daily activities: If eating, dressing or using the bathroom becomes demanding, consider extra help or medical care.
  • Worsening symptoms. Seek medical attention immediately for worsening pain, shortness of breath or confusion.

If you’re unsure whether to seek medical help, it’s always best to consult a health care provider. We work with home health and hospice providers to match patients with the best care. Our team informs patients and caregivers about home health nursing aides and assisted living. We also offer options for veterans, such as VA geriatric and extended care programs.

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