Coping with the side effects of cancer treatment can sometimes be more difficult than coping with the disease. Senior citizens struggle with this more than younger people because as we age our body system slows down. This includes our immune system as well as growth, brain processes and much more.
When cancer strikes a senior citizen it is paramount to get treatment as soon as possible. More natural methods or alternative cancer treatments are not as effective in seniors, although their benefits should certainly not be ignored. Although medical treatment is necessary, it does cause certain after-effects for senior citizens that must be dealt with including:
- Longer medication absorption periods.
- A reduction in appetite. Some senior citizens already deal with this issue as a side effect of aging and it is could be further enhanced by the cancer medications.
- Contraindication with other medications already being taken. Senior citizens are more likely to be on several of medications for any number of age related issues such as high or low blood pressure, other heart problems, stroke, or memory issues.
- Depression and fatigue are both common side effects for radiation. These affect senior citizens more harshly than younger people for a few reasons. As we age, our muscles and respiratory systems weaken and we tire more easily. Our brain cells naturally die off as we age, causing a decrease in serotonin, dopamine and other “happy” hormones.
The tips below can help elderly patients deal with these complications:
- Eat for nutrition as well as taste. Incorporate a range of natural and organic foods including vegetables into the diet. Drastically reduce or eliminate packaged foods. Use extra flavorings like herbs and spices. Older adults have a reduced sense of taste and smell, this enhanced flavoring helps entice them to eat.
- Exercise helps increase energy and active muscles help increase body function. It also releases “happy” hormones that help fight depression.
- Keep in touch with friends and family. Communing with people who have had similar experiences is an effective and ongoing remedy that is often overlooked. Building such connections automatically lowers ones depression levels.
- Check for contraindicating medications already being taken. Take a list of medications with to the doctor’s office to avoid being treated for cancer with medicines that will interfere with the current prescriptions. The doctor may need to change medications or reduce the dose.
- Dose medications appropriately for age. The slower digestive processes of senior citizens can cause medications to stay in the body longer and therefore medications should be dispensed beginning at lower levels.
Having cancer is a trying experience for anyone. It’s important to create a balance between the medications and the side effects caused by them. Be open to recognizing the needs caused by the medication and never hesitate to ask for help whether its from friends and family or a home care service provider. Senior citizens should continuously educate themselves on and about cancer, and continue to add tips such as these into their wellness toolkit and put them into practice.