Caring for Seniors with Cancer

Making Living Arrangements for Seniors Diagnosed with Cancer

After World War II, millions of soldiers returned to their homes and started new lives. To make it easier for those in the U.S., Congress passed legislation that helped them buy homes and go to college. Today, there are 76 million American baby boomers, making up almost 30 percent of the population. The generations who embraced rock-and-roll, protested social injustice, and sounded an alarm about the environment are now changing the way we look at retirement. When a cancer diagnosis accompanies aging, however, special living arrangements are often necessary. 

Retirement Options for Baby Boomers

The Consumer Affairs Research Team lists 11 alternatives for retirees, depending on their resources and physical conditions.  The first, staying at home and hiring a caregiver when needed, allows them to be independent but may become impossible with a serious illness. Another option, age-restricted neighborhoods, not only provides independence, but it also makes it easier to be part of a community, live in accessible housing, and make new friends. 

For people who are less independent, nursing homes and assisted living provide varying degrees of help with meals, medical needs, and daily hygiene. Short-term options like respite care can give care-givers a break or offer 24-hour monitoring during an illness or recovery, regardless of the location. For people who have dementia, memory care, which may be part of a nursing home, monitors patients around the clock. Trained staff members know how to deal with dementia and keep residents comfortable and safe. 

Unfortunately, some cancer diagnoses come with a poor prognosis. Seniors diagnosed with a terminal cancer face even more challenges, both physical and emotional. For instance, some seniors will be diagnosed with mesothelioma. This rare and deadly cancer is more common in older men because it is largely caused by asbestos exposure on jobsites, including industrial plants and U.S. Navy ships. Men who worked for years in these jobs may get this terrible diagnosis decades later. 

A terminal cancer like mesothelioma can benefit from living arrangements that include palliative care. This may mean staying at home but having workers trained in end-of-life issues come in to assist or choosing a facility that provides medical care along with palliative treatments, therapy, spiritual guidance, and other specialty services. 

Continuing care retirement facilities offer many of the same services, but they also allow residents to transition from one phase to another as the need for help increases while allowing them keep their friends and caregivers. Another choice for the somewhat healthy senior is co-housing, a living arrangement where seniors share public areas but live independently in their own spaces, or home-sharing, where another person moves in to help with daily tasks or financial demands. 

For retirees who love adventure, living abroad during retirement can sometimes lower living and health expenses and provide an opportunity to enjoy other cultures. In some situations, seniors keep their social security benefits, but rules regarding private insurance vary.

Caring for Seniors with Cancer

A cancer diagnosis, like aging, may temporarily or permanently require special living arrangements or help. Although loved ones can stay at home, facilities may be better able to provide for their needs in specific ways:


• Keeping pain and other symptoms under control

• Monitoring medications, equipment and health condition

• Recognizing and acting when the situation gets worse

• Being available around the clock

• Helping with diet and hygiene

• Giving emotional support

• Dealing with emergencies

Caring for a loved one can be stressful and tiring for friends and family, especially if they are unfamiliar with prescribed medical procedures or unable to undertake the strenuous job of caring for another’s physical needs. As the cancer progresses, it may also be hard for them to recognize the signs or to manage them. Knowing their loved one is comfortable and at ease can make it easier for everyone to cope with the illness. It also helps to have a team or professionals who work together to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the cancer patient, and good retirement facilities do that. 

Seniors have more options than ever for living arrangements. Whether for brief respites or long-term stays, cancer patients may need to rely on compassionate, trained medical caregivers for the best outcome.

Article By: Darren Watts