At Chris O’Brien Lifehouse we believe our patients should feel empowered to steer their own path through their cancer treatment. With advice from your care team of doctors, nurses and therapists we will help you make informed decisions about what is right for you and your individual circumstances.
Lifehouse has a range of supportive services available to patients, their families and carers to ease the burden of treatment and help you adjust to changes in your health and lifestyle. Please click on the appropriate word to find out more information about counselling and complementary therapy. You can find further information in our Welcome Pack, which will be sent to you prior to your first appointment at Lifehouse.
Tips and resources
Being treated for cancer affects everyone differently. As well as the physical symptoms and side effects of treatment, you may have concerns about the implications for your life in terms of practical, relationship and personal issues. Our Tips and resources page provides helpful advice across a range of subjects from nutrition to relationships and communication as well as financial and legal issues.
Getting the most from your treatment
At Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, we encourage patients to actively participate in their care by asking questions of their care team and ensuring they are armed with all the information they need to understand how to get the best from their treatment.
As a patient, there are a number of ways you, your carer and your family can actively participate in your care. Here are some tips to help you:
1. Be actively involved in your own health care
Taking part in decisions about your healthcare is really important to ensure you are getting the best possible care.
2. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to speak up if you have concerns
You have every right to ask questions and to get an answer that is clear and easy to understand. If there’s something you don’t understand about your treatment or you need to clarify anything, don’t be afraid to ask the members of your care team. They are here to help you.
3. Help prevent infections
Cancer and its treatment can weaken the body’s immune system. This means cancer patients are more susceptible to infection. For cancer patients, an infection could be life threatening. Here are some simple things you can do to minimise the chance of picking up an infection:
Prepare: Watch out for fever
Changes in your body temperature can be a sign of an infection, which could be serious. If you’re undergoing treatment and you develop a fever at home and feel warm, flushed, chilled or unwell, call your doctor immediately or go to the hospital emergency department. If your temperature is 38 deg C or higher for more than an hour, or if you have a temperature of above 38 deg C, get medical assistance immediately. Always be prepared:
- Find out from your doctor when your white blood cell count is likely to be lowest since this is when you’re most at risk of infection.
- Keep a thermometer on hand to check your temperature if you’re feeling unwell.
- Keep your doctor’s phone numbers and medical emergency numbers with you at all times.
- If you do need to go to the emergency department of your local hospital, let them know immediately what type of cancer treatment you’re undergoing.
- Make sure you get your flu vaccination.
Prevent: Clean your hands
One of the best ways to prevent the spread of infection is to keep your hands clean at all times. It’s important that you, all members of your household, your doctors, nurses or anyone around you washes their hands regularly. Don’t be afraid to ask people, including your care team, to clean their hands using soap, water and paper towels or hand sanitiser, which is available from dispensers on every floor of Lifehouse. For more information about hand hygiene and how to prevent infection when you are undergoing cancer treatment, click here.
Protect: Know the signs and symptoms of an infection
During your treatment your body will not be able to fight infections as well as it might have before. Call your doctor immediately or go to the emergency department of your closest hospital if you notice any signs of infection, which might include the following symptoms:
- Sweats and chills
- Change in cough or new cough
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat or new mouth sore
- Nasal congestion
- Stiff neck
- Redness, soreness or swelling in any area including surgical wounds and ports
- New onset of pain
- Any new bodily changes
4. Raise your health concerns: when in distress, press!
You know your body better than anyone else. If you or your loved ones feel as though your condition is deteriorating or if you are concerned about a recent change in your condition while you’re undergoing treatment, let your nurses or doctors know immediately. Don’t be afraid to press the nurse call button. Your treating nurse will listen to your concerns, take a set of observations and may escalate your concerns to a senior nurse or doctor.
5. Minimising the risk of falls
Your Chris O’Brien Lifehouse team will ensure everything you need is within reach and can assist you to move around if needed. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance from your care team if you’re feeling dizzy, have difficulty walking or need help to get up go to the bathroom. There are a few things you can do to help minimise the risk of a fall including:
- Wear non-slip footwear that is comfortable and well fitted.
- Make sure your clothing isn’t too long.
- If you need glasses or contact lenses, make sure you wear them.
6. Managing your medication
Make sure you advise your doctors and nurses about any medication you are on before you start treatment. And don’t forget to let them know about any vitamins or complementary medicines you are taking. This is important to help ensure your cancer treatment won’t impact on existing medications and vice versa. Chris O’Brien Lifehouse has strict procedures in place to ensure patients are receiving the right drugs and doses. If you need to go to the pharmacy, make sure the medicine you have been given is exactly what your doctor prescribed for you. If you are starting a new medication, don’t forget to ask what side effects you might experience. Ensure you understand the dose that you need to take, how often you should take it, when to take it and whether or not it should be taken with food.
7. Checking your identification
While receiving treatment at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, your care team will often ask your name and date of birth. They will also check your Medical Record Number against your charts and records. These are three simple patient identification checks we carry out to ensure you are receiving the right treatment. It might feel a bit frustrating for you to have to repeat these details but we do these identification checks so we can provide you with the safest and highest quality care.
If you need to have a procedure, you will be given two identification bands – one around your wrist and the other around your ankle. This is another way to ensure the safety and quality of care and to ensure that you are in surgery for the correct procedure.
8. Providing consistency of care
While undergoing treatment at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, your care will be managed by a team of nurses, medical practitioners and other healthcare professionals. We have a number of processes in place to ensure each member of your care team is fully across all aspects of your care, treatment and condition. Your care team meets regularly to discuss your treatment to ensure you’re getting the best possible care in a consistent manner.
9. Managing blood products
Some patients may need blood and blood products during their treatment. Our highly trained team adheres to a number of procedures for blood handling to ensure that our patients who receive blood and blood products do so in an appropriate and safe manner. If you have any objections or concerns about receiving blood products, make sure you discuss them with your care team.