Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home

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It’s important to exercise as much as you can to keep muscles working as well as possible. Exercise helps prevent problems that are caused by long-term bed rest, such as stiff joints, weak muscles, breathing problems, constipation, skin sores, poor appetite, and mental changes. It also helps reduce stress and relieve fatigue. Talk with your doctor about exercises that you can safely do, and then set goals for slowly increasing your physical activity level. If you have trouble moving around, please see the section called “Weakness.”

What the patient can do

  • Do as much daily self-care as possible.
  • Take a walk every day.
  • Talk with your doctor or cancer team about the kind of exercise you can do to help reduce fatigue and give you more energy.
  • If you’re confined to bed, do range-of-motion exercises as instructed by your nurse, doctor, or physical therapist. In active range of motion, you move a joint without any help from others. Passive range of motion is when someone else moves it for you. Either type of range-of-motion exercises can be done without getting out of bed. Try not to move any joint that is painful.

What caregivers can do

  • Go with the patient on walks or other exercise outings.
  • Encourage the patient to do as much as possible for themselves.
  • Talk with the doctor or nurse about range-of-motion exercises if the patient has trouble getting out of bed. You may remind the patient to do active range-of-motion exercises several times a day, if they can. If they can’t, you may learn to help the patient with passive range of motion.

Call the doctor if the patient:

  • Gets weaker, starts losing their balance, or starts falling
  • Has new pain or pain that gets worse
  • Has headaches or gets dizzy
  • Has blurred vision, new numbness, or tingling in arms or legs

Last Medical Review: 11/05/2013
Last Revised: 11/05/2013