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The Purple Jacket is pleased to welcome back guest writer, Kayla Matthews!
The cancer diagnosis is just the beginning of a long and difficult road for those with the disease. Many treatment plans include rounds of chemotherapy, a method used by doctors to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Along with that comes a slew of side effects, of which they and their caretaker should be made aware.
Indeed, it will be the caretaker’s job to ensure the chemotherapy patient stays safe when they’re not at their treatments. In the hospital, nurses know how to handle their patients carefully and keep everything sanitary. Once the patient goes home, though, it’s up to their caretaker to keep everything clean and safe for both the person fighting cancer and those around them. Here’s what to do if you’re stepping up for someone you know in chemo:
1. Know Chemo’s Side Effects
Depending on the way chemo is administered, a person can experience a range of side effects. Many people feel nauseous, or they vomit after receiving the medication. Of course, this all depends on the dosage and type of chemotherapy a person gets. As a caregiver, you should be aware of the typical side effects you can expect.
Plus, you should know that chemotherapy drugs stay around in a patient’s bodily fluids for up to seven days post-treatment. Everything from vomit to urine to blood will have traces of the drug, and those not on chemotherapy should avoid contact.
2. Clean up Properly
You’ll have to learn how to sanitize your home in the week following a chemotherapy treatment. Once a patient has a spill of any bodily fluid, start by putting on a pair of disposable gloves and wiping it up with a cloth. Double-bag the used material before throwing it into the trashcan to be extra safe. If the spill splashed onto a floor, use soap and water or naturally disinfect it with vinegar to clean up the spot after it has been wiped up with the aforementioned cloth.
If the same spills occur on a bed sheet or pillowcase, you can salvage them after a long wash on either a hot or cold cycle. Make sure the chemo patient puts the lid down before flushing the toilet, and invest in a bucket you’ll use during nauseous moments mid-chemo. Once the treatment’s over, dispose of the bucket.
3. Follow the Treatment Plan
Your chemo patient will have an in-depth treatment plan, which includes the drugs they receive from their doctor directly and the medications they supplement at home. You should make yourself familiar with this plan too, so you know your loved one gets what they need when they need it. Be sure to check the medication’s storage requirements as well so the treatment doesn’t lose any of its efficacy with improper placement. The drugs have to go somewhere safe where kids or pets cannot accidentally ingest them.
4. Remember the Good to Come
No matter how happy-go-lucky a person may be, a cancer diagnosis — and the subsequent treatment — can be draining. As a caregiver, it’s up to you to also be a cheerleader. Remind your loved one what life will be like afterward, especially focusing on the joy that will come with survival. It’s the beginning of a tough road, but it’s not the end, and you should remind them of this as often as possible.
As you can see, the job of a caregiver is equal parts medical and emotional. Yes, you have to ensure they take their medicine on time and keep their living quarters sanitary, but you also have to serve as a support system in one of life’s most trying times. However, if you signed up for the role, it means you have the heart to do it — and now, you know the practical requirements of the job, too.
Kayla Matthews: Kaylaematthews@gmail.com