New treatments for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have dramatically improved the outlook for people with this type of cancer.
But NSCLC is still a serious disease. The 5-year survival rate ranges from 61 percent to 6 percent, depending on the stage.
NSCLC causes symptoms like fatigue, coughing, loss of appetite, and trouble breathing. Treatments also come with side effects, which can include infections, nausea and vomiting, and pain.
These symptoms can make your day-to-day life more challenging. You may need help with your daily tasks, like bathing, getting dressed, grocery shopping, and taking your medication.
Emotional support is also important while you’re receiving cancer treatment. NSCLC and its symptoms can take a big toll on your quality of life. Up to 40 percent of people with lung cancer experience depression, and as many as 23 percent experience fear and anxiety, according to 2016 research.
In-home care can relieve some of the stress and other challenges of living with lung cancer. A caregiver can help you with just about anything you’re having trouble doing on your own.
The first step is to know what services you need, and which ones are available.
Home care services for lung cancer
Home care can help you maintain your independence. It provides many of the same services you’d get from a doctor’s office or hospital, without having to travel.
A few different types of providers can care for you at home:
- A registered nurse (RN) works with your cancer doctor to create a care plan. A nurse can care for wounds, help you take your medication, give you injectable medication, and monitor the effectiveness of your treatment as well as any side effects you may experience.
- A home health aide helps with the daily to-dos, like getting out of bed, bathing, dressing, and walking. Some health aides will also do light chores like cleaning, grocery shopping, and cooking.
- A social worker helps with the emotional and economic aspects of living with cancer. They can connect you to resources in your community to help you pay for the cost of your treatment and manage the stress of a cancer diagnosis.
- A physical therapist (PT) teaches you exercises to improve your strength and flexibility.
- An occupational therapist (OT) shows you short-cuts that can help you accomplish daily tasks, like bathing or cooking, more easily.
- A dietitian helps you plan meals that fit your individual nutritional needs.
Some home care providers deliver meals or medications to you. Others supply equipment, like breathing machines and oxygen tanks.
Palliative and hospice care
While you’re receiving cancer treatment, palliative care can help you feel better. This type of home care focuses on relieving cancer symptoms like pain as well as side effects from treatments to improve your quality of life.
Doctors, nurses, and social workers can each provide palliative care. They offer support to both you and your family members.
Palliative care isn’t the same as hospice care. Hospice care also helps with pain, anxiety, and other symptoms to keep you comfortable. The difference is that you get hospice care in the final stages of disease, when treatments stop working.
How to find an in-home caregiver
Start by looking for home healthcare agencies in your area. Ask the doctor who treats your lung cancer for a referral.
Another option is to hire an independent care provider. Just keep in mind that this person may not be licensed or regulated. You’ll also likely be responsible for covering payroll taxes, Social Security payments, and unemployment insurance for an independent care provider.
To make sure you’re hiring from a company that meets high-quality standards, make sure it’s:
Get references. Ask the agency for the names and phone numbers of cancer doctors and patients who have used its services. It’s also a good idea to research the company online and read reviews.
Once you’ve found a reputable company, make a list of the services you think you’ll need. Also consider how often you’ll need care: just a few hours a day, or nearly all day?
Here are a few other questions to ask when you’re evaluating a home care company:
- What services do you offer?
- How much do these services cost?
- Do you carry malpractice and liability insurance?
- Are your caregivers licensed and bonded?
- How many references do you check when hiring new employees (ideally, at least two)?
- How do you train and supervise your caregivers?
- Do you create a care plan for each client? What information does it include?
- Is financial aid available to help me pay for the cost of in-home care?
- Do you have a 24-hour phone service in case any questions or problems arise?
Paying for home care
Home care can be a big help, but it comes with a price tag.
Medicare, Medicaid, and some private insurance companies should help cover the cost. But first you’ll need to prove that the care is medically necessary, and that you can’t leave your home.
Health insurance typically won’t cover the cost of round-the-clock care. It also won’t pay for services like cleaning, cooking, or shopping.
Lung cancer can affect every part of your daily routine. You may need help with tasks like bathing, shopping, and dressing, as well as support to handle the emotional burden of living with cancer.
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