by Bob Gorman
Finding out someone you care about has to undergo chemotherapy is a scary time. While you probably have many questions about the treatment and what you and the chemotherapy patient should expect, it is important to understand that everyone’s experience is different. One thing you can count on, however, is the need to make some preparations at home to give your patient the best chance to stay healthy.
It is important to keep your home as clean as possible during this time. Viruses and bacteria that would be an inconvenience to someone with a healthy immune system can be devastating to someone with compromised immunity. Clean regularly with disinfectant cleaners, paying particular attention to the kitchen and bathroom. Keep a supply of disinfectant wipes on hand to wipe down toys, game controllers, phones and other items frequently. Vacuuming with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter will keep the air clean and comfortable for the chemotherapy patient, a separate air cleaner is not generally required.
Mold can be very dangerous for individuals undergoing chemotherapy. Getting rid of mold should be a top priority when preparing your home. Existing mold needs to be dealt with before the individual returns home. A bleach solution will remove mold from hard surfaces, but drywall and other porous materials may need to be replaced. In addition, it’s important to identify the source of the mold. Leaks and standing water should be eliminated, and put off any construction work, as this often triggers mold growth.
It can be challenging to get enough nutrients when feeling queasy from chemotherapy. Have plenty of choices available, including easy to chew and swallow foods such as mashed potatoes, to make it easier to find something agreeable.
It is important to maintain high standards for cleanliness in food preparation areas. Serve only pasteurized juices. All fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly under running water. Ideally, these foods will also be peeled. Berries and melons should be examined carefully before serving, to ensure there is no mold growing on them.
The easiest way to ensure your dishes are sanitary is to wash them in a dishwasher, but, if that isn’t possible, wash in hot, soapy water and rinse under hot, running water. Paper and plastic disposable dishes can ease some of the strain of keeping dishes sanitized.
Chemotherapy may make sleeping difficult, whether from discomfort or pain in the body or queasiness. As treatments progress, the patient may become frail or have balance issues. With this in mind, a medical bed can be a good addition to the home. These beds help relieve pressure and keep the patient comfortable, while at the same time, making it easier for the individual to sit up, move around and get in and out of the bed as needed.
Everyone in the house needs to get in the habit of washing their hands frequently. Use an over the counter surgical scrub, such as Hibiclens, and wash for 30 seconds. Rinse hands thoroughly under running water and dry with a paper towel.
Chemotherapy medications are present in body fluids, such as urine, during treatment and for 48 hours after. To prevent exposing anyone else to these medications, it is important to take special precautions in the restroom. Men should urinate sitting down, to minimize the chances of splashing. After using the bathroom, close the toilet lid and flush the toilet twice. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before leaving restroom. Anyone responsible for cleaning the restroom should wear gloves when cleaning.
As you can see, there is a lot to think about when caring for someone undergoing chemotherapy. Depending on the age of the patient, and the type of chemotherapy administered, the individual may be able to do a lot of this care on his or her own. Having someone else available to make sure the house is clean, any maintenance issues are dealt with, and there is healthy, safe food available will allow the individual undergoing chemotherapy to save their energy for more important matters.