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What Are the Different Types of End of Life Care for Cancer?

Meshell Powell
Meshell Powell

End of life care for cancer patients focuses primarily on caregiver education. Decisions must be made concerning topics such as whether the patient will return home during the final days of life or receive care in a medical facility. Physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the patient need to be considered as well. Legal issues such as creation of a will or whether the patient wishes to be kept alive by artificial means should be taken care of before the health of the patient declines to the point where clear thinking is no longer possible. Any specific questions concerning end of life care for cancer patients should be discussed with a doctor or attorney, depending on the nature of the question.

When a patient is diagnosed with terminal cancer, the caregiver must help the medical staff and patient decide whether end of life care for cancer will occur in a home environment or in a medical setting. This decision depends heavily on the specific medical needs of the patient as well as the wishes of the family. If a home environment is chosen, the caregivers will be given instructions by the medical staff concerning the care of the patient as well as when to call for outside assistance.

End of life care for cancer may include hospice services.
End of life care for cancer may include hospice services.

The caregivers will work closely with the supervising physician as well as the rest of the medical staff to make sure the physical needs of the patient are met. This includes feeding, bathing, and administering medications. If the patient returns home, a nurse may be sent to the home on a periodic basis to offer any supportive care that may be necessary. Strong pain medications or sedatives are often prescribed in order to keep the patient as comfortable as possible during the final days of life.

End of life care attempts to make a terminally ill patient as comfortable as possible.
End of life care attempts to make a terminally ill patient as comfortable as possible.

Emotional and spiritual support are also components of end of life care for cancer. This may include grief counseling or pastoral support. The family of the cancer patient may also benefit from these forms of support while coping with the impending death of a loved one.

Legal issues can be a part of end of life care for cancer patients. In order to ensure that the patient's last wishes are honored, it is wise to visit an attorney and create a will and appoint a medical power of attorney if desired. Advanced directives can also be drafted, stating the patient's wishes concerning the use of supportive devices such as ventilators.

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