By Heather Millar
As I’ve written many times, we have a family friend who lives across the street and has metastatic lung cancer. Several neighbors, including me, regularly bring food to him and his partner. He’s a retired music teacher and pianist, so I know that one neighbor recently gave him a sheet music collection of Beethoven pieces. Through an open window, I can hear him playing them from time to time. One of his sisters has come to help take care of him for the duration.
He has lots of support and help from family and friends. Yet still, home health aides visit him several days a week. They help with errands. They pick up medicines. They help him bathe. They change linens. They walk the dog. They do light housekeeping. They do whatever needs doing.
Anyone who’s had cancer, or who’s going through it now, knows that sometimes just sitting in an easy chair and trying not to think about mouth sores or nerve pain is all a patient can manage. What happens if the cancer patient used to be the family cook, like my neighbor, or the family errand-runner/appointment maker/financial planner, like me?
That’s when you need help. Networks of friends from church, school or work can sometimes step in. There are several websites like Lotsa Helping Hands, to help organize friends and family.
But as patients age, those networks may dwindle. My neighbor is in his 80s. Many of his contemporaries don’t have the energy to step in, as much as they might like to do so. And sometimes there’s just too much to do. That’s when it might be time to call in professionals to help ease the burden.
Does that sound too expensive? You may be surprised to learn that often patients can get financial assistance for this kind of help. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act provide funds for these services. Not everyone may meet the criteria for assistance, but it’s worth a try.
The U.S. Administration on Aging maintains an Eldercare Locator. Medicare maintains a Home Health Compare site, where people can compare Medicare-certified home health agencies in their area. You can also search for resources in your area on the American Cancer Society website.
What’s available may differ from place to place, but it’s worth checking out. Let us know your experience with cancer support services here.