Fighting cancer is tough for anyone. But if you’re an older adult, the battle often includes challenges beyond defeating the disease itself. From coordinating care for other chronic conditions to building up a support system to help with daily meals and tasks, it’s important to set yourself up for success during your cancer treatment.
Manage Your Overall Health
In addition to cancer, you may have other medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, that impact your health, your ability to care for yourself, and the effects of your cancer treatment.
An important first step is to discuss all medical conditions with your Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers oncologist. It’s just as important to make sure your oncologist knows every medication you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription drugs and supplements.
In addition, side effects from surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy may take a greater toll when you’re older. The impact of those side effects can range from fatigue that makes it seem too taxing to cook meals, to illness that can interfere with or delay treatment.
To help manage your care — and to make it easier for others to help you, get organized. The American Society of Clinical Oncology suggests putting together a binder that will serve as a single, easy-to-use source of information. Include things like:
- A calendar to record appointments
- Space for taking notes during phone calls and visits with your treatment team
- A place to record and track symptoms and side effects
- Your insurance information, including Medicare and any supplemental policies
- A list of all medications you routinely take, and the dosage
- Addresses and phone numbers of each medical provider
- Copies of important tests and records
- A list of resources, including friends, family, and support services, that can help out if you need them
Rely on Local Resources
If you no longer drive, that can make simply getting to treatments difficult. But if you’ve also recently relocated to a new home or apartment, maybe following the death of a spouse or to be near an adult child, you may not have a support system in place to help with meals, transportation, and basic companionship. All that can lead to feelings of isolation, and even depression and anxiety — and that can get in the way of your recovery.
So, as you begin your cancer treatment, take steps to put a support system in place. In addition to reaching out to family members and friends, consider seeking out medical or non-medical professionals who can assist you with everything from medications to housekeeping.
And, most communities have numerous non-profit organizations and resources that can help with meals or transportation. Social workers and other support staff at your Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers location can help connect you with the resources you need. A few of those include:
Denver Metro Area:
- Meals on Wheels delivers meals in Adams, Arapahoe, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Gilpin, Jefferson, and Larimer counties to those 60 and older who qualify. Meals are free, contributions are appreciated.
- Project Angel Heart delivers meals to people with serious illness, including cancer, throughout much of the Denver metro area. Typically, five frozen entrees, which can be re-heated, are delivered on Fridays or Saturdays.
- TLC Meals on Wheels delivers meals to seniors in the south metro Denver area. There is an optional grocery delivery program. Clients are asked to contribute based on ability to pay.
- Seniors’ Resource Center offers services including transportation to seniors in Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Denver, and Jefferson counties.
- The American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery connects patients who are unable to drive themselves to volunteer drivers who will provide transportation to and from cancer treatment for those of any age.
El Paso County:
- Project Angel Heart delivers meals to people with serious illness, including cancer, in Colorado Springs. Typically, five frozen entrees, which can be re-heated, are delivered on Fridays or Saturdays.
- Rural Area Meal Program (R.A.M.P.) serves seniors in rural El Paso County and homebound seniors in the city of Colorado Springs up to 14 re-heatable meals every other week. Donations are requested. (719) 884-2300.
- Silver Key Meals on Wheels delivers hot meals to seniors 60 and older throughout the Colorado Springs area Monday through Friday, and re-heatable meals on weekends.
- Fountain Valley Senior Services provides transportation for those 60 and older who live in southern and eastern El Paso County. Donations suggested. 719-520-6472.
- Silver Key Transportation Services provides rides to doctors’ appointments and other locations for those 60 and older. A donation of $3.50 is suggested.
- Senior Resource Development Agency (SRDA) Meals on Wheels delivers one meal daily to any senior who is 60 or older and homebound.
- American Cancer Society Resource Center (located at Dorcy Cancer Center) provides support groups and other services. (719) 557-4944.
- Senior Resource Development Agency (SRDA) Senior Transportation Program provides transportation to seniors 60 and older who can’t access or afford transportation.
- Teller Senior Coalition provides transportation to those 60 and older Monday through Friday. Reservations for medical appointments must be made in advance. 719-687-3330.
- Outback Express is a public transit system serving Elbert, Kit Carson, Cheyenne, and Lincoln counties, including long-distance trips to medical appointments. 719-348-5562.