As a family caregiver, you understandably are concerned about your loved one and his or her physical as well as emotional and mental states. Compassion and empathy are just as important as treatments. Your loved one appreciates your presence and your support. You can be an oasis in an otherwise turbulent time.
Your loved one may experience weight loss that is disturbing to you. The solution for this weight loss is, unfortunately, not as simple as urging the person to eat more food-although that might be your first impulse. Cancer can affect a person's ability to taste or smell food. It even can affect how full the person feels after eating. A complex mix of metabolic and hormonal changes causes cancer-related anorexia. Treatment for this is not simply a matter of eating more food, because cancer changes the ways the body uses those nutrients and produces energy from them. However, you can do several things to help your loved one if anorexia becomes an issue.
If a person has trouble swallowing or otherwise can't get enough nutrition by mouth, the oncologist will recommend inserting a tube into the stomach or small intestine to deliver nutrition directly to the digestive system. Another option is to deliver nutrition through a special IV called a central line, which is inserted directly into a large vein (often near the shoulder area). Although delivery of nutrition through a central line is typically done only in the hospital setting, other nutrition delivery systems can be used at home-if a caregiver is adequately trained to do so. However, note that such types of nutrition are not often considered an effective treatment for anorexia.