Search This Blog

Friday, 27 September 2013

Caring For The Patient With Cancer At Home (Symptom- Poor Appetite)

Today more people with cancer are being cared for at home. Caregivers or family members are taking on roles that, just a short time ago, were carried out by trained health professionals.

This article lists some common problems that a patient with cancer can have, warning signs to help spot these problems early and how to take care of the patient with those problems.

Some of the common problems a patient with cancer can have are : Poor appetite, anxiety & fear, confusion, constipation, depression, diarrhea, difficulty in moving, fatigue, fever, fluids & dehydration, blood in urine or stool, itching, leg cramps, mouth bleeding or dryness or sores, nausea and vomiting, pain, skin dryness, sleep problems, swallowing problems,etc

Poor Appetite

A person with a poor or no appetite may eat much less than he or she normally does, or may not eat at all. Poor appetite can have a number of causes, such as swallowing problems, anxiety, depression, pain, or nausea and vomiting. It can also be due to a changed sense of taste or smell, feeling full, tumor growth, dehydration, or side effects of chemotherapy or radiation. Poor appetite is most often a short- term problem.

     What to look for:
  • Lack of interest in food
  • Refusing to eat favorite foods
  • Weight loss

  What the Patient can do:
  • Ask your doctor what may be causing your poor appetite.
  • Eat as much as you want to, but don't force yourself to eat.
  • Think of food as a necessary part of treatment.

  • Start the day with breakfast.
  • Eat small, frequent meals of your favorite foods.
  • Try foods high in calories that are easy to eat (like pudding, gelatin, icecream, sherbet, yogurt and milk shakes)

  • Add tasty, high-calorie sauces and gravies to your food, and cut meat into small pieces to make it easier to swallow.
  • Use butter, oils, syrups, and milk in foods to raise calories. Avoid low-fat foods unless fats cause heartburn or other problems.
  • Try strong flavorings or spices.
  • Plan meals that include your favorite foods.
  • Create pleasant settings for meals. Soft music, conversation and other distractions may help you eat more comfortably.
  • Eat with other family members.

  • Drink liquids between meals instead of with meals. (Liquids at mealtime can lead to early fullness.)
  • Try light exercise one hour before meals.
  • Hard candies, mint tea, black tea with lime, lemon barley or ginger ale may help get rid of strange tastes in the mouth.
  • With your doctor's approval, enjoy a glass of beer or wine before eating.
  • Eat a snack at bedtime.
  • When you don't feel like eating, liquid nutritional supplements like Ensure, Resource etc could be taken. Using a straw may help.

      What Caregivers/ family members Can Do:

  • Try giving the patient six to eight small meals and snacks each day.
  • Offer starchy foods (like bread, pasta and potatoes) with high protein foods (like fish, chicken, meats, turkey, eggs, cheeses, milk, tofu, nuts, peanut butter, yogurt, peas and beans)
  • Keep cool drinks and juices within patient's reach.

  • If the smell of food bothers the patient, offer bland foods cold or at room temperature.
  • Create pleasant settings for meals and eat with the patient.
  • Offer fruit smoothies, milk shakes, or liquid meals when the patient doesn't want to eat.

  • Try plastic forks and knives instead of metal if the patient is bothered by bitter or metallic tastes.
  • Don't be upset or impatient when the patient refuses food or can't eat.
  • If the patient can't eat, you could offer to read to them, sit with them or give them a back or foot massage.

    Call the Doctor if the patient:
  • Feels nauseated and cannot eat for a day or more.
  • Loses five pounds or more.
  • Feels pain when he or she eats.
  • Does not urinate for an entire day or does not move bowels for two days or more.
  • Does not urinate often or, when he or she does, the urine comes out in small amounts, smells strong, or is dark colored.
  • Vomits for more than 24 hours.
  • Is unable to drink or keep down liquids.
  • Has pain that is not controlled.     

Reference: Caring for the Patient with Cancer at Home - a Guide for Patients and Families