What is Different About Looking after Older Adults with Cancer? The Nurses' Perspective. (#6)
The care of the older patient diagnosed with cancer can be very different as compared to the treatment of the younger person. Older patients tend to have comorbid conditions, geriatric syndromes and additional social support needs that must be anticipated and addressed. Clinicians must be sensitive to the special needs of the senior adult. Prescreening patients in order to identify limitations that must be specifically assessed is a critical element to geriatric care. Falls risk, emotional and cognition screening, and caregiver issues are all very important elements associated with cancer treatment. Anticipating symptoms such as pain, insomnia and anxiety can help the patient undergo scheduled cancer treatments and preserve functional status. In terms of cancer treatment, older patients tend to tolerate cancer treatment as well as younger patients when considering comorbidities and life expectancy. Offering cancer treatment options based on functional status as compared to chronological age is important to effectively treating the older cancer patient. Patient/family education and psychosocial support are also important. Determining if the patient is also a caregiver can also be helpful in that many seniors do not have an abundance of caregivers and despite feeling ill following cancer treatment, many have to provide caregiving tasks. Transportation assessment is also important in that a lack of transportation can be a major barrier to cancer treatment. Educating the patient and family to issues of life expectancy and treatment toxicities may help in the decision-making process. Helping patients maintain independence to the greatest extent possible is a large focus of providing geriatric care.