Q. My 80-year-old father is a long-time colon cancer survivor. Since he is now a widower, my sister feels like he cannot get along by himself. He wants to be at home and seems to be doing just fine. What do you suggest?
A: Seniors usually are most comfortable in their homes and doctors often concur.
Your father or you should check with his physician and find out what he thinks about the issue. If the doctor agrees that your dad can be at home, ask what he will need to successfully maintain his independence.
A study, presented recently at the American Association for Cancer Research's Seventh Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, revealed that home-based diet and exercise interventions can improve the physical function of senior citizens who are long-term cancer survivors.
Those interventions proved particularly important for seniors, who are known to have more difficulty than younger people in recovering normal functions, like climbing stairs, carrying groceries or taking a shower, than younger people. Those in this intervention group made significant recovery.
To be included, patients had to be older than 65 years, have survived their cancer for at least five years with no evidence of recurrence, have no medical conditions that would preclude unsupervised exercise, and be overweight or obese.
Participants were randomly assigned to an intervention or a wait-list control group.
Those in the intervention group received tailored mailed print materials on diet and exercise, a pedometer and exercise bands.
For the first three weeks, participants received weekly phone calls, which tapered off to every two weeks and then once a month until the end of the study.
At the end of one year, researchers evaluated physical function, diet quality and physical activity using standard measures.
Participants in the intervention group demonstrated significant improvements in their diet and exercise behaviors, and their weight status.
What's more, according to the SF-36 physical function test, participants in the intervention group had a 2.5-point decline compared with a 5.3-point decline in the control group.
Perhaps your father could benefit from assistance at home as well with tasks such as meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands and shopping, or even companionship.
If so, contact Home Instead Senior Care for more information.
The company's CAREGivers go into the homes and care communities of seniors to help keep them independent for as long as possible.
For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, contact DeLauter at 522-6533 or visit www.homeinstead. com. For more information about this study, visit www.aacr.org/home/public-media/ news.aspx?d= 1183.
DeLauter is the owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office that serves Lycoming and Clinton counties.