Home care may be an alternative option to inpatient treatment for some people with leukemia. Its suitability will depend on the type of leukemia that the individual has and their general health.
Leukemia is an umbrella term for blood cancers that usually originate in the bone marrow and cause abnormal blood cells. People can have a chronic form of leukemia that progresses slowly or an acute form that develops rapidly.
People who receive medical care at home may need the support of a team of caregivers and medical professionals, such as nurses, doctors, and social workers.
This article looks at home care for leukemia patients. It discusses Medicare coverage, safety precautions, and how loved ones can support people as they navigate this challenging time.
People living with leukemia may need various types of care and support at home. They may need help managing their symptoms or administering their treatment.
Physical therapists work with people to help them regain mobility. They use targeted exercises, stretches, and massages to help increase the individual’s strength.
Registered nurses can visit people at home to perform skilled tasks that require a healthcare professional. Examples of these tasks include:
- administering intravenous fluids and medications
- caring for wounds
- applying dressings
Licensed practical nurses
Licensed practical nurses carry out essential tasks to monitor and promote people’s health, such as:
- giving injections
- monitoring temperature
- measuring blood pressure
- recording vital signs
If a person cannot leave their bed, a licensed practical nurse can care for bedsores and manage catheters.
People with leukemia often experience a loss of appetite. Dietitians can help them create palatable meal plans that provide adequate nutrients.
Home care aides
Home health or care aides can assist with daily personal tasks, potentially helping a person with:
- going to the bathroom
- getting dressed or changed
- getting into and out of bed
- walking around
General fatigue or symptoms such as dizziness can make even minor daily tasks challenging for people with leukemia. A home care aide ensures that a person stays safe while caring for their daily needs.
People with leukemia may also benefit from palliative care options. Palliative care helps a person go about their daily life while bringing as much relief as possible from the symptoms and stresses of living with a severe health condition. It can provide emotional support for both the person and their family members and friends.
Palliative care aims to improve quality of life. It is an option for people who are also receiving curative treatment and may recover from leukemia, as well as for those who no longer receive other treatment and are eligible to enter a hospice.
Medicare covers many of the costs associated with leukemia treatment. However, people will still have out-of-pocket expenses to cover.
If a person receives hospital care or inpatient surgery, Medicare Part A covers the cost. Medicare Part B covers outpatient chemotherapy care and surgeries. Medicare Advantage plans match this coverage.
The costs that an individual must cover include:
- monthly premiums
- excess charges
The term leukemia encompasses different cancers that vary in severity. A person’s symptoms and treatment will determine their daily life to a significant extent.
People who have not started treatment or are suffering from a chronic form of leukemia may be able to continue their regular daily routine. They may still be able to go to work and exercise. However, those who have started treatment may begin to experience mild or severe side effects.
One of the main treatments for leukemia is chemotherapy, which destroys cancer cells.
For many people, chemotherapy treatment is effective. However, one major side effect is extreme fatigue. People undergoing treatment may spend a lot of time resting in bed. Likewise, people with terminal leukemia may also sleep for long periods.
The family and friends of people living with leukemia should take precautions to keep the individual as healthy as possible.
Individuals with cancer, especially those undergoing chemotherapy, are immunocompromised, meaning that they have a weakened immune system. If a person with leukemia becomes unwell, their immune system cannot effectively combat the infection. As a result, they could become extremely ill.
People sharing a household with someone who has leukemia should get the flu shot. They should not receive the nasal spray vaccine because it contains a live virus that could put the immunocompromised person at risk.
Additionally, people in the household should follow basic hygiene protocols, such as washing their hands frequently and avoiding close contact with people who are unwell.
If anyone in the household has signs of infection, it is important to contact the person’s healthcare team immediately.
People with leukemia may find that eating a healthy, balanced diet helps them stay strong during and after the treatment and boosts their ability to tolerate any side effects. The body also needs good nutrition to help it replace the blood cells and tissues that chemotherapy has damaged.
A balanced diet includes:
- fruits and vegetables
- lean sources of protein
- plant-based oils, such as olive oil
- low fat dairy
- whole grains
In addition to getting plenty of the above foods, people should limit their intake of saturated and trans fats, sugar, salt, and alcohol.
It is also important to maintain hydration by drinking enough water, tea, and nonsugary drinks. Water may help alleviate chemotherapy side effects such as constipation and fatigue. It may also help people rehydrate after vomiting.
Although the food that a person eats cannot treat cancer, it can make a difference to their health and how they feel.
People who survive cancer and have strong emotional support and encouragement often adjust more easily to changes in their life and have both a more positive outlook and a better quality of life. Family and friends can make a big difference to people living with leukemia.
Living with leukemia can be challenging for everyone involved, but caregivers should try to be flexible and patient. Friends and family can support the person by staying in contact, visiting, offering their services, and bringing little gifts to let the individual know that people are thinking of them.
No matter how strong the individual may seem, the support of loved ones will be beneficial.
Leukemia is a group of blood cancers that vary in severity. People living with leukemia have a range of treatment options, including support to help them manage their daily activities. Options include nursing, nutritional advice, physical therapy, and home health support.
A doctor or cancer care team can offer advice on home care for people with leukemia. Depending on the person’s needs, healthcare professionals can administer their cancer treatments at home rather than in an inpatient facility.
No matter the situation, the family and friends of a person living with leukemia should offer emotional support whenever possible to help improve their quality of life.