Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home

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It’s important to exercise as much as you can. 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 cancer team about exercises that you can safely do, and then set goals for slowly increasing your 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 cancer team about the kind of exercise you can do to help reduce tiredness and give you more energy.
  • If you must stay in bed, do range-of-motion exercises as instructed. 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 in bed. Try not to move joints in a way that causes pain.

What caregivers can do

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

Call the cancer team 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: 06/08/2015
Last Revised: 06/08/2015