2009-02-18 / Seniors

Support Services Help Seniors Living With Cancer

Dear Savvy Senior,

What kinds of resources or support services are available to help seniors living with cancer? My husband is being treated for prostate cancer and has become exhausted and very depressed about it.

Looking for Help

Dear Looking:

Most people, when they think of cancer support and treatment, think of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. But there's a lot more to fighting cancer than destroying cancer cells. Here's what you should know.

Help is Available

As the number of cancer survivors in the U.S. grows to more than 11 million, so, too, does the need for support services to help patients and family members deal with the physical, emotional and financial side effects that can come with a cancer diagnosis. Today, a variety of services and programs exist that can help with a wide spectrum of cancer-related issues such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, pain, family and caregiving issues, financial and insurance concerns and more.

Depending on your husband's needs, for example, there are counselors, social workers and cancer support groups that can help with depression, anxiety and other psychological issues, nutritionists and dietitians to help deal with nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue or mouth sores, and physical therapists, pain specialists, acupuncturists and message therapists that can assist with pain and discomfort.

Finding Services

To find out what kinds of cancer support services and programs are available in your community, start by asking the clinic, medical center or hospital that's treating your husband. His doctor or nurse should be able to provide you with referrals. Larger health care or cancer treatment centers usually offer a wide variety of onstaff support services. However, if your husband is being treated in a small clinic or you live in a rural area, finding help may be more difficult. You can also visit www.cancer.org, type in your ZIP code and search for services online.

If you don't find any programs locally that meet his needs, there is also a growing number of Internet support services that can be very helpful, too. Here are some to check out:

Cancercare (www.cancercare.org). This national nonprofit organization provides free professional support services to cancer patients and caregivers, including counseling, education, financial assistance and practical help. To get help over the phone, call 800-813-4673.

American Cancer Society Cancer Survivors Network (www.acscsn.org). This site has online support, social networking, personal survivor Web pages, links to support services and a free "Life After Cancer Treatment" book.

The Lance Armstrong Foundation (www.livestrong.org; 866-467-7205). Provides counseling and referrals to local resources, helps address financial and insurance concerns and more.

National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (www.canceradvocacy.org). Offers a free online "Cancer Survivor Toolbox" audio program that helps with decision-making, finding information, tips for older persons, paying for care, living beyond cancer and more.

National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov- click on "Cancer Topics"; 800-422-6237). Provides a wide variety of helpful information on coping with cancer, along with a section dedicated to cancer survivorship- see dccps.nci.nih.gov/ocs.

American Society of Clinical Oncology (www.cancer.net/patient/coping). Offers good information and resources to help cope with and manage care.

Association of Cancer Online Resources (www.acor.org). Provides information and support through their Internet mailing lists and cancer-related Web-based resources.

Savvy Tip: The Institute of Medicine also provides a comprehensive list of resources for cancer patients and caregivers at www.iom.edu/cancerwholecare. Click on "Resource List and Role Models."

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to "The NBC Today Show" and author of The Savvy Senior books.

The Gazette does not endorse the contents of The Savvy Senior. Check with professionals about the contents of this column.

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