For breast cancer surgery or radiation therapy after-care — as with many forms of post-acute care — home health RNs and PTs provide skilled wound services, medication assistance, therapies to help with range of motion or to treat fluid build-up, as well as other relief for patients and families coping with disease, illness and recovery.
One major side effect is lymphedema. It is classified as uncontrolled swelling in one or more limbs or other areas of the body, typically caused by injury to the lymphatic system because of surgery or other treatment.
“This can be a very isolating and limiting condition,” says Kristen Anuszewski, a home care therapist specializing in lymphedema care for home care patients of Community Health Center (CHC), based in Johnstown and serving seven counties surrounding the capital region to the west and north.
As a safety-net provider of home care in rural New York, CHC is especially well-suited to help patients who may not otherwise be accessing necessary, specialized care because of limited transportation or severe symptoms – like extreme, debilitating pain – that prevent patients from leaving home.
“Home care recipients face a variety of struggles that make attending regular medical appointments challenging and unsafe,” Anuszewski says. “Considering these factors, it is not surprising that people in this population are often unable to make it to, or keep, regularly scheduled appointments to treat their conditions. This inconsistency has a negative effect on their recovery and, subsequently, their function and quality of life.”
As a certified lymphedema therapist, Anuszewski provides skilled care directly in the home of individuals suffering from this condition. These skilled services include decongestion of the limb or limbs, proper fitting of compression garments for long-term management of the condition, as well as patient/caregiver education, training and support.
In addition to primary symptoms like uncontrolled swelling — which is itself debilitating — lymphedema causes many other secondary issues that Anuszewski watches for and helps manage, including wounds or infection.
“Home-based lymphedema therapy ensures consistency to those who may otherwise have poor outcomes due to an inability to access outside services,” Anuszewski adds. “This is very important when the goal is to achieve the best outcomes and return quality of life to those we service.”
October is breast cancer awareness month. To learn more, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation. To learn more about breast cancer and home care, visit the American Cancer Society’s page on What home care services are available for cancer patients?