Updating the Mindset of Older Adults About Living With Cancer
Some boomers and seniors have a memory of a friend or relative who died with cancer some years ago. However, if they or their friends are diagnosed with cancer now, the whole mindset has changed in recent years. Now the emphasis is more on living with cancer rather than dying of cancer.
Older Ideas and Fears About Cancer Diagnosis
A number of today’s senior citizens have seen cancer from a very different viewpoint than it is usually seen today. They have several generations of experience seeing cancer’s deathly toll on patients and their families before the newer screening and treatment protocols.
This deeply embedded memory leads to a secret fear that cancer is always a death sentence. Yet modern medicine and thousands of happy survivors don’t agree. One by one, today’s older adults are finding that, although cancer is still a struggle, and some grief over the diagnosis is in order, the issues are completely different than they were in the past.
New Mindset for Senior Citizens About Cancer
Just the very fact that seniors have lived longer means some are acutely aware that in past years some folks died from cancer soon after diagnosis. Those who haven’t had more recent experience with cancer might still carry that dismal viewpoint. This is where re-thinking is needed. A more hopeful attitude affects both the family’s approach to treatment as well as the immune system!
In order to get on with the business of treatment and other decisions, seniors or boomers recently diagnosed with cancer may need to realize that dealing with cancer involves going in a completely different direction than the previous act of just putting one’s affairs in order. The new mindset is about living with cancer as a chronic condition.
Older Adults Building Support System During Cancer
A number of seniors have adult children who are busy raising families. Even though family members care deeply and want to be there for the patient, there are realities of scheduling and other responsibilities which must be faced. American Cancer Society, Can Care, and other agencies with experience dealing with these issues should be included in the overall support system.
It is worth spending some time developing a network of support. Churches, neighbors, relatives, friends, and community services can be tapped in order to give help in adjusting to the new and sometimes long-term support needed by both the patient and caregiver.
Seniors Choosing a Cancer Treatment Center
Evaluating a treatment center needs to involve a number of criteria:
- Accessibility: closeness to home, caregivers job, and/or reliable transportation
- Ratings of the doctors, hospital, or clinic
- Word of mouth referrals from trusted friends
A patient seeking treatment needs to look at all the factors. Sometimes it’s not just the highest ranking hospital, but a doctor trained especially in the patient’s particular diagnosis which points the way toward a choice. For example, in the greater Houston area, M.D. Anderson is the hands-down worldwide winner in many cases. Yet, for the diagnosis of mantle cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma with leukemia, Dr. Charles Yen at the North Houston Cancer Center is a fine choice due to both accessibility for his patients, and his amazing and professional expertise in the area, and the care and concern which both he and his staff take with patients.
Senior Cancer Patients and Families Waiting for Test Results
This starts once initial screening suggests a problem. Then, like a neverending game, it continues through and even after treatment. Even in remission, cancer patients often have regular checkups with their oncologists. Anxiety is a very real issue which varies in intensity with individuals.
Many people say it helps them to purposely stay busy during the time between such tests and the resulting consultation with their oncologist. Some take a trip, start a project like a flowerbed or organizing a room, while others read or go on with their normal activities to keep their mind occupied.
Cancer Survivors Living With the Aftermath of Treatment
Although many of the side-effects are temporary, like hair loss, some are longer-lasting. Memory loss, pain from neuropathy, decreased strength and endurance are but a few of the effects which may come from the cancer and/or the chemotherapy. There may be a need to adjust one’s lifestyle to accommodate the “new normal” which can require adjustments to one’s basic identity. Yet some patients claim the experience gives a new appreciation for life and the ability to live in gratitude.
When an older person is diagnosed, both the patient and family first may need to find a new mindset about living rather than dying with cancer. Then building a support network, finding a treatment center, waiting for test results, and finding ways to adjust life after treatment will help senior cancer patients embrace and enjoy the gift of life each day.