As your parents age, you worry about the diseases and illnesses they might be diagnosed with. Your mom goes to a doctor appointment and just like that, she’s diagnosed with cancer. The doctor describes the treatment options, but how will your family decide what to do next?
Aging is the single greatest risk factor for developing cancer. Older adults have a higher risk for cancer and other diseases that may affect cancer treatment, care, and recovery. When making decisions about care and treatment, seniors and their healthcare professionals should consider overall health and ability to keep up with appointments and self-care.
Some issues that should be considered when deciding on cancer treatment are the individual’s well-being, independence, and feelings of self-worth. By gaining an understanding of what abilities a senior can undertake, it is easier to identify which type of treatment has the least risk with the most benefit. This can also help to determine how much supportive care a person will need throughout their treatment process.
Identification and management of co-existing conditions is vital to determining the best form of treatment along with being aware of any effects they may have on the treatment plan. Some co-existing health conditions include high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and arthritis. These conditions generally accompany the aging process and set older adults apart from younger individuals who develop cancer.
There are several emotional concerns and practical issues to consider when determining which treatment plan is best for your mom. Some of these are:
- Maintaining Independence
For many seniors, maintaining independence in living and decision making is a big concern. Some cancer treatments may interfere with the ability to complete daily tasks such as cooking, bathing, walking, or driving independently.
- Feelings of Social Isolation
For those seniors who do not have a solid support system in place, feelings of depression and anxiety can overwhelm the process, which may interfere with treatment. There are often community resources that can be taken advantage of to lessen these feelings of social isolation and to build a support system of non-family members.
- Financial Concerns
It is important to discuss the financial aspect of the treatment options. Many older adults live with a limited income or previous financial problems that vastly limit the financial resources to pay for cancer treatment. Discuss any financial concerns with a healthcare professional, as there are many resources available.
- Physical Limitations
Many elderly individuals who develop cancer also develop mobility issues. Consider how to change your mom’s home to make it a safe environment for her to live in. Some simple measures you can take include improving lighting, organizing clutter, and installing safety railings on stairs and in bathrooms.
Access to many cancer treatment options relies on dependable transportation. If your mom can no longer drive herself, other forms of transportation will need to be utilized. This can include rides from family members and friends, public transportation, and paratransit.
Despite the initial reaction to the cancer diagnosis, it is important to ask about all treatment options, including their risks, benefits, and goals. All decisions are personal, and your mom has the right to determine what is best for her.