How to care for a person with terminal cancer

The latest figurse show that the disease claimed the lives of over 160,000 people in 2012

As cancer claimed the lives of three icons of the art world in a matter of weeks – Motorhead’s Lemmy, singer David Bowie and actor Alan Rickman – the devastation the disease causes has once again been highlighted.

The founding member of Motorhead passed away aged 70 on 29 December, while Bowie died aged 69 on 10 January. His passing was followed by Rickman’s death four days later. The actor was also 69-years-old. 

Fans mourning the three men have shared photo of them swearing, alongside captions such as “here’s to you cancer” and "dear cancer".

Their deaths have drawn attention to the difficulties of dealing with the disease as it becomes incurable, and how loved ones can help to make the experience easier.

Cancer charities offer a variety of advice online for families, friends and carers during what can be an extremely difficult time. 

When caring for a person with advanced cancer at home, it is important to make sure they are clean and comfortable. A district nurse may be able to help with advice on washing or showering, helping the person go to the toilet, as well as moving them. They can also arrange for a carer to visit if possible, according to Macmillan

People with advanced cancer may also experience side effects such as a sore mouth, and a softer toothbrush is often a more comfortable option. 

Preparing smaller meals of softer food throughout the day can also help with nausea and any difficulty chewing and swallowing. 

Other issues such as learning how to massage the person; taking care of their hair; moving and turning them; and managing falls are key to offering the best care. 

It is also important to devise an emergency plan for unexpected situations, according to terminal illness charity Marie Curie. This should include the details of the patient; the friends or family that should be contacted in an emergency; a list of medication the person takes and their needs; and information on where essentials are kept in their home. 

Marie Curie also stresses that carers must also look after themselves by eating well, getting exercise, sleeping enough, and monitoring their psychological wellbeing. This can ensure that the patient is cared for better, and that the carer stays healthy. 

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