How can I help my Grandfather with his chemo treatments received via catheter?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I'm concerned about my grandfather.  He just recently started chemo for his bladder cancer. It's a new type of chemo where they put a catheter inside him and fill his bladder with chemo. They send him home with the catheter inside him, which has to stay in him for two more hours. Then he removes it and drains it out. I was just wondering what kind of side effects come with this type of chemo and if there is anything I can do to help.

Expert Answer

Bonnie Bajorek Daneker is author and creator of the The Compassionate Caregiver's Series, which includes "The Compassionate Caregiver's Guide to Caring for Someone with Cancer," "The Journey of Grief," "Handbook on Hospice and Palliative Care," and other titles on cancer diagnosis and end of life. She speaks regularly at cancer research and support functions, including PANCAN and Cancer Survivor's Network. She is a former member of the Executive Committee of the CSN at St. Joseph's Hospital of Atlanta and the Georgia Chapter of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

This localized chemo is designed to avoid classic side effects related to systemic chemo, such as hair loss. However, he's likely to still encounter nausea(from the influx of chemicals),pain at the insertion site, difficulty with elimination of waste (particularly urination), and fatigue.Additionally, his open wound is susceptible to infection.

You can help him by suggesting that he lay down after draining the catheter.This will give his system a chance to accept the chemo, decrease immediate nausea, and encourage rest.Work with him to make his bed comfortable: does he need pillows at the small of his back or an extra blanket?Is it more comfortable for him to lay on his side or back?Have a portable urinal or bucket close by the bed so if he needs to vomit or release urine, he can readily do that.Here are more ideas on nausea and how to keep up your grandfather's appetite.

After a few hours, help him get a little exercise by walking a little.He's probably been given some medicine for pain, and you might suggest he follow the dosing schedule to maintain pain management.Keeping the insertion site clean and bandaging it correctly will decrease the change of infection and speed healing.You can help him with the psychological as well.It's unnerving to have foreign substances in the body -- not only the cancer, but this chemo apparatus.Keep him company.Encourage him to manage this chemo application on his own but let him know you’re available to help.Remind him this is short-term:most chemo regimes last only a few weeks and this one has a high success rate.