Caring for children living with cancer
As a social worker, one may be assigned duties that entail caring for the terminally ill patients. Cases of cancer among the children are increasing by the day, leading to a high demand for social work services in the facilities that provide care for these children and their families. It is among the leading causes of illnesses in children who are beyond one year old in the United States. The most common types of the diseases among children include leukemia and brain cancer and other tumors that affect the central nervous system. The major causes of the illness among the children are mostly linked to genetics. The affected children are taken to institutions where they receive palliative care. It is a health care mechanism meant to enhance the children’s quality of life by ensuring that they do not suffer a lot of physical and psychological pain. The mechanism also takes care of the psychological and emotional needs of the children’s families. Social workers are trained on how to deal with individuals from different backgrounds and cultures as well as those dealing with difficult situations in life such as death and terminal illnesses. This research focuses on cancer among children because it is on the increase in the modern days as indicated by the qualitative and quantitative study below. It is important for social workers to develop skills necessary in handling patients in the palliative care who in the modern days include children ailing with cancer.
Globally, about 43 children are diagnosed with different types of cancer every day and about 12% of this figure do not survive (Wiener et al, 2015). Sixty percent of those who survive the illness suffer from health complications later in life such as infertility. In the United States, about nine percent of the deaths annually involve children who are past the infancy age, usually within the age bracket of 5 and 14 years (Docherty et al, 2012). . Approximately 6% of these children are toddlers between one and four years while the infants below one year have the highest rate of 38% (Docherty et al, 2012). The rates of survival among children with the illness has improved over the decades due to better healthcare and increased use of palliative care units. In 1975, the number of children who survived at least five years after the diagnosis was 50% but this has changed because between 2004 and 2010, the same rate was more than 80%. About 5% of the illness cases among children are caused by inherited factors (Docherty et al, 2012).
Some of the factors that lead to high mortality rate among children suffering from cancer in the developing states include poor quality health care and the inaccessibility to equipment and treatment needed to manage the condition. A study conducted in Gambia states that about 100,000 children in the country die each year because they cannot access the necessary medical attention (Lindley, Mark & Lee, 2009). This study conducted two interviews related to the management of cancer among children. One of the respondents was a parent whose child was diagnosed with cancer at the age of seven but could not access the right medical attention due to the high cost of treatment required. The other respondent was a social health worker who works at a palliative care facility. She expressed her concern about the increased cost of treating the ailment that makes it impossible for the children to access medical attention.
The cost of treating cancer is the primary reason that makes it hard for the children to access treatment. There are both medical and non-medical costs that are used in managing the illness. Non-medical expenses (Knaul et al, 2010) consume about 26% of the weekly budget among these children. A research carried out in the United States reported that the monthly charges for the disease range between $100 and $1800. More than 50% of these charges are incurred during the diagnostic and terminal stages (Ganz, Casillas & Hahn, 2008).
Case scenario and applications
Caring for the children with cancer in a palliative care facility is one of the most satisfying jobs in social work. In one scenario, I was looking after a child aged eight diagnosed with cancer at the age of six but the high cost of medical services made it hard for the parents to afford medical treatment. Both the family and the child required counseling so as to face the challenges that the illness presented. The fear of facing death of a loved one made their lives miserable. I recommended the parents to spend most of their time with the child.
The training provided to the social workers enables them to deal with difficult situations such as death, bereavement and pain for people from all lifestyles. However, it is still important for the training to lay more emphasis on how to deal with the families of the affected individuals. The cost of treating cancer is the other issue identified in the study that needs attention. Individuals suffering from the illness should be given affordable medical care. The cancer health care facilities need to be increased to enhance accessibility by the patients.
The role of social workers in caring for children with cancer is important as it helps the individuals and their families to cope with the difficult situations. Learning about the emotional challenges that the children and their families may face such as lack of medical fees is important for potential social workers as it prepares them for their future jobs. Understanding the challenges makes it easy to give appropriate counseling to the families as well as their children.
Docherty, S. L., Thaxton, C., Allison, C., Barfield, R. C., & Tamburro, R. F. (2012). The nursing dimension of providing palliative care to children and adolescents with cancer. Clinical Medicine Insights. Pediatrics, 6, 75.
Ganz, P. A., Casillas, J., & Hahn, E. E. (2008, August). Ensuring quality care for cancer survivors: implementing the survivorship care plan. InSeminars in oncology nursing (Vol. 24, No. 3, pp. 208-217). WB Saunders.
Knaul, F. M., Anderson, B., Bradley, C., & Kerr, D. (2010). Access to Cancer Treatment in Low-and Middle-Income Countries-An Essential Part of Global Cancer Control. Anderson B, Ballieu M, Bradley C, Elzawawy A, Cazap E, Eniu A, Harford J, Kerr D, Knaul F, Magrath I, Reeler A, Rowett L, Saba J, Samiei M, Sullivan L. Access to Cancer Treatment in Low-and Middle-Income Countries–An Essential Part of Global Cancer Control. Working Paper. CanTreat International.
Lindley, L., Mark, B., & Lee, S. Y. D. (2009). Providing hospice care to children and young adults: a descriptive study of end-of-life organizations. Journal of hospice and palliative nursing: JHPN: the official journal of the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association, 11(6), 315.
Wiener, L., Weaver, M. S., Bell, C. J., & Sansom-Daly, U. M. (2015). Threading the cloak: palliative care education for care providers of adolescents and young adults with cancer. Clinical oncology in adolescents and young adults, 5, 1.