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Introduction

Community health nurses (CHNs) are essential in the healthcare system for providing comprehensive and patient-centered care, especially for elderly cancer patients. Their duties cover the areas of equity, accessibility, and empowerment in addition to typical nursing roles. CHNs have a diverse role in meeting the special healthcare requirements of older cancer patients. This essay emphasises the significance of addressing comorbid conditions and fostering supportive surroundings. By doing this, they not only enhance these people's quality of life but also help lessen healthcare inequities in light of Australia's aging population.

Nursing role and client group

A community health nurse (CHN) has various roles, primarily focusing on delivering holistic care. These nurses adhere to primary healthcare concepts that are core to their profession while working in various healthcare settings, such as home care, community health centres, and long-term care facilities (Hartzler et al. 2018). A fundamental principle that governs their work is equity. CHNs ensure that all elderly cancer patients, regardless of socioeconomic level, gender, or cultural background, have equitable access to healthcare facilities and support. Adjusting care to each person's requirements effectively removes barriers to accessing healthcare and reduces inequities (International Council of Nurses 2021. Another essential focus of this function is accessibility. CHNs make considerable efforts to ensure that elderly cancer patients may readily access healthcare services. This can entail setting up transportation for people with limited mobility, making home visits as needed, and working with neighbourhood services to make care accessible. These nurses make sure that no unnecessary barriers prevent elderly cancer patients from receiving the care they require by enabling access to care.

The role of a community health nurse is fundamentally one of empowerment and patient-centred care. These nurses actively involve the elderly cancer patients they care for in developing care plans, considering their preferences, beliefs, and aspirations. Including patients in shared decision-making and educating them about self-management, treatment alternatives, and palliative care enables them to actively engage in their healthcare decisions (Molina-Mula & Gallo-Estrada 2020). One of the most critical aspects of their work is thorough assessment. Each senior cancer patient is given a complete evaluation by a nurse who records details about the cancer's type, stage, previous treatments and the patient's physical, emotional, and social requirements. This thorough evaluation helps build care plans specifically adapted to each patient's needs, ensuring a tailored approach (Farrington et al. 2020).

Individuals with advanced cancer require special attention while providing palliative care. In accordance with the concepts of holistic care and comprehensive support, CHNs play a crucial role in assessing and resolving pain management, symptom control, psychological support, and end-of-life care talks (Hussain 2021). In multidisciplinary teams, CHNs collaborate extensively with oncologists, geriatric specialists, social workers, and other medical professionals to ensure comprehensive treatment (Puts et al. 2018). Finally, they play a vital role in health promotion and education. CHNs advise patients and their families on managing cancer's effects and therapies by sharing information on good lifestyle choices, cancer prevention, and self-care techniques. They enable patients to actively participate in their well-being and health by transferring knowledge and skills, enhancing their quality of life and general well-being (Lawler et al. 2021).

Health needs of client group

Among the demographic of cancer patients aged 65 and above, one significant potential health issue is the increased risk of comorbid conditions. This age group faces a higher likelihood of having multiple chronic illnesses in addition to their cancer diagnosis, which can complicate their overall health and the management of their cancer (Fowler et al. 2020). This age group experiences particular healthcare issues in Australia. Over 61% of cancer patients in this group report having at least one long-term health issue, indicating they are more likely to develop chronic disorders (Mahumud et al. 2020). Glaring socioeconomic differences affect people's access to healthcare facilities and the standard of service. Geographical location also impacts, especially in rural locations with few cancer treatment options. Giving older cancer patients in Australia individualised, evidence-based care requires understanding these demographic characteristics (AFshar et al. 2020).

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reveals that elderly Australians are frequently affected by chronic diseases. In this age range, common comorbidities include hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For instance, most older Australians (65 and older) (80%) have at least one specified chronic health condition, and 28% have three or more.(AIHW 2023). These comorbidities may result in complicated medical conditions that call for specialised care. Managing cancer alongside these chronic conditions can be challenging. For example, cancer treatments may interact with medications prescribed for these comorbidities (Oncology Pro 2023). The AIHW reports that over 40% of people aged 75 and above were taking five or more medications daily in 2017-2018, which increases the risk of drug interactions, medication errors, and adverse effects (Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care n.d). Additionally, the burden of dealing with multiple chronic conditions can lead to medication non-adherence, negatively impacting the cancer treatment's effectiveness and the control of comorbidities (Kvarnström et al. 2021).

Non-educational health promotion response

The Ottawa Charter's health promotion strategy of fostering supportive environments is essential for addressing complicated health issues such as cancer and comorbid disorders in elderly individuals (Better Health Channel 2021). First and foremost, care coordination and continuity are paramount. The nurse can take the lead in collaborating with healthcare teams and specialists to ensure that the management of chronic comorbid conditions is seamlessly integrated with cancer care (Karam et al. 2021). This approach prevents conflicts in treatment plans, medications, and appointments, aligning with NSQHS Standard 1 - clinical governance principles by ensuring safe and high-quality care (ACSQHC 2021). Additionally, patient-centered care planning is essential.

The nurse can actively involve patients in developing care plans by adhering to NSQHS Standard 2 - partnering with consumers (ACSQHC 20210. This empowers patients, allowing them to express their preferences and goals concerning managing their cancer and comorbid conditions, fostering a sense of ownership over their health (Krist et al. 2017). Furthermore, the nurse should collaborate with allied health professionals such as dietitians, physiotherapists, and social workers to address various aspects of patients' health (Reeves et al. 2017). Integrating these services contributes to comprehensive and coordinated care following NSQHS Standard 4 - medication safety, focusing on the safe and effective management of medications, which is especially critical when dealing with older patients managing multiple conditions (ACSQHC 2021). 

Supporting access to resources and support groups that cater to both cancer and chronic conditions is another essential aspect of creating supportive environments (Howell et al. 2021). This aligns with NSQHS Standard 5 - comprehensive care principles, ensuring that patients and their families receive medical and emotional support, enhancing their social networks and overall well-being (ACSQHC 2021). Lastly, the nurse should facilitate discussions about end-of-life care and advance care planning, documenting and effectively communicating patients' preferences (Goswami 2021). This aspect relates to NSQHS Standard 6- clinical handover, ensuring patients' choices regarding managing comorbid conditions and cancer are respected throughout their care journey (ACSQHC 2021).

Conclusion

In conclusion, adherence to primary healthcare principles with a focus on equity, accessibility, patient-centred care, comprehensive assessment, palliative care, collaboration, and health promotion characterises the role of a community health nurse in assisting elderly cancer patients aged 65 and over. Following these principles, nurses can offer tailored, comprehensive care to a group of people dealing with complex health issues, such as comorbid diseases. It is necessary to use a coordinated, patient-centred strategy that includes continuous care, cooperation, empowerment, interdisciplinary teamwork, and assistance for resource access to meet the diverse health needs of this clientele. The quality of care and general well-being of older cancer patients can be improved by nurses by using the measures outlined above, ensuring that they get the specialised assistance they require.

References

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