Palliative Care to Assist Ill and Aging Family Caregivers

Betty R. Ferrell, PhD, RN


May 08, 2017

Who's the Patient and Who's the Caregiver?

Madeline is a nurse practitioner in an oncology clinic. She is seeing new patients today. She grabs the file for the next patient and walks to the lobby where she sees an elderly man pushing a very frail woman in a wheelchair. The man introduces himself (George) and his wife (Kathy) and they follow the nurse into the exam room. Madeline helps Kathy get settled, and then she looks at the chart and realizes that Kathy is not the patient—she is the primary caregiver. George is being evaluated for a new diagnosis of advanced prostate cancer.

Kathy is very engaged during the visit, taking notes and asking questions, eager to help in George's care. Later, Madeline completes the initial assessment and leaves the exam room to connect with the oncologist. George follows her out to get water for Kathy and stops Madeline. He tells her, "You need to know that I'm not going to agree to any treatment that will make things harder for Kathy. I've been taking care of her for many years and I'm not stopping now."


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