Susan Sabo-Wagner: Providing Care for Debilitated and Isolated Patients With Cancer Brings Challenges

Susan Sabo-Wagner, MSN, RN, OCN, executive director of clinical strategy for Oncology Consultants of Houston, Texas, spoke about the effects of isolation on patients with cancer who need help at home but have no one to provide it.

Though uncommon, when patients with cancer are without home support or facility assistance and are less functional, they can face additional unique and distressing barriers to receiving care, says Susan Sabo-Wagner, MSN, RN, OCN, executive director of clinical strategy for Oncology Consultants of Houston, Texas.


What do you do with your toughest patients who need support at home but they don't have anyone who can help take care of them?

Those are incredibly tough, and they're incredibly sad. It depends on how functional they are. Generally, if they're coming to an outpatient cancer clinic, they're functional. If they're not, they are usually in some kind of skilled facility or some kind of facility that can get them here.

We've had a few really challenging situations where patients believe that they're functional, but they're dealing with really questionable things at home. We've had some bedbug outbreaks on patients coming in and, short of being able to get into the home ourselves, we've had to do patient safety checks, call the police and have them go and check. We've had assistance with case management in the hospital when a patient has ended up in the hospital—because usually it doesn't take very long before somebody who doesn't have adequate care at home—that will have home health care that we can set up and eventually between home health care case management, or hospital case management, and our team working together will be able to get something set up that they're going to end up going into some kind of care facility, at least temporarily, while they finish up treatment or while they're in ongoing treatment.

Luckily, it's not very common to have absolutely no one, but it is sad, it is very sad. Usually, there is somebody but it's more of a neglect situation. Calling Adult Protective Services has been something we've had to do on more than one occasion, which is also an unfortunate thing.

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