Cancer Support Services
The Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC offers a variety of programs designed to help children and their families cope with the unique challenges posed by cancer. These services are also offered to patients and families after cancer treatment has ended to help with a healthy survivorship. Cancer Institute patients and their families can speak with their case coordinator for further information on any of the resources and services listed below.
Social workers, specially attuned to the needs of cancer patients and with bilingual capabilities, help families address a variety of challenges. They meet with families at the time of diagnosis and work with them throughout the course of treatment, providing emotional support and continuous contact. In addition to offering supportive counseling and information on a variety of support groups, our social workers are able to link families with community resources for emotional and financial support. They help facilitate the completion of forms, arrange for housing close to the hospital if necessary (including stays in the Ronald McDonald House and information on local apartments), coordinate transportation to and from the hospital, navigate the financial paperwork and address any work issues that parents are facing.
All new patients are immediately paired with a pediatric oncology nurse coordinator who serves as an advocate for the child and family throughout the patient’s course of treatment. The coordinator serves as a guide to navigating conferences with physicians and medical staff, facilitating appointments, and ensuring seamless care between inpatient and outpatient services. The nurse coordinator also assists during the discharge planning process as well as providing patient education and other family support as needed.
Families of patients being cared for at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC have access to hospital-based financial consultants who are experts in obtaining funding for a child hospitalized with cancer. They connect families with Medi-Cal and California Children’s Services (also known as “CCS”) and help families navigate the financial paperwork that accompanies inpatient and outpatient services. Financial consultants also work with parents to effect prompt payment of their bills, which involves conferences with physician offices, third-party payors and other hospital departments.
Financial consultants also do the following:
- Advise, inform and assist the patient’s family before, during and after hospitalization regarding their financial obligation to the hospital.
- Evaluate prepayment and deposit requirements.
- Request and collect prepayments and deposits.
- Make arrangements for payment of bills and follow up on collections.
- Evaluate financial status of accounts.
- Receive and follow up on Medi-Cal assistance applications and California Children’s Services, and refer likely Medi-Cal applications to an on-site eligibility worker.
- Make arrangements for payment of self-pay portions of bills and deposits, and arrange promissory notes upon patient discharge.
Patients and their families can speak with their case coordinator for more information on working with the hospital’s financial consultants.
The psychological issues patients and families deal with when coping with cancer can be overwhelming. The Cancer Institute has a dedicated psychology team who works closely with patients and families to help them cope with the emotional and psychological stress of cancer. Psychologists provide an initial consultation when the patient first meets with the Cancer Institute team and assessments throughout the patient’s hospitalization. Psychology services are then available as needed for patients, parents and siblings. The psychology team assesses and treats such issues as depression, anxiety, phobias (to medical procedures), anger, sleep difficulties, loss and grief, and behavioral problems.
Spiritual Care Services
A chaplain is available to offer patients and their families support throughout their treatment. The chaplain is available for prayer or meditation and can help sort out feelings of fear, loneliness, anger and loss.
Registered dietitians round with the oncology medical team every day. They perform a nutrition screening for all patients when they are admitted to the hospital and determine the need for further assessment. Our dietitians meet with children and their families upon diagnosis and anytime they require further nutrition assessment or education. The goal of Nutrition Services is to optimize a patient’s nutrition status, which helps ensure they will tolerate their cancer treatments, recover faster and continue to have age-appropriate growth. Dietitians work to prevent or correct nutritional deficiencies, minimize treatment side effects, enhance quality of life during treatment, improve the patient’s ability to tolerate treatment, help achieve and maintain optimal body weight and teach patients how to incorporate nutrition into a comprehensive follow-up plan. Our team works closely with the physicians to determine if a child needs additional nutrition support such as tube feeding or IV nutrition. Families are provided with dietitian contact information when they leave the hospital, in case they have questions at home. Patients can also be seen by a dietitian in our outpatient oncology clinic. Learn more about our nutrition services and the team members you may meet.
Patient Education Handbooks
The family of each child who is treated at the Cancer Institute receives a Patient Education Handbook available in English and Spanish. This comprehensive notebook is filled with valuable material, including hospital information, treatment descriptions, laboratory test overviews, home care instructions, signs of illness to look for when the patient returns home, and what to do in an emergency. These handbooks are highly personalized and customized to the different cancer diagnoses and treatment alternatives. Pages are added as needed and families often carry them wherever they go – from hospitalization to follow-up appointments. The handbook also features a list of important phone numbers.
Our patient backpacks and patient care kits are two resources that help patients and families cope with hospitalization and follow-up care. Upon admission to the hospital, every patient receives a backpack where he or she can store a patient education handbook and other needed supplies. It serves as a wonderful overnight bag and helps keep all of the materials organized. The patient care kits include food, toiletries, phone cards, cafeteria coupons and other items that patients need upon hospitalization.
CHOC offers an unparalleled complementary medicine program. In fact, it is only one of a handful of such programs in the United States. Led by Ruth McCarty, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner and co-founder of our Complementary Integrative Medicine program, children are able to receive a variety of complementary therapies in conjunction with their treatments. McCarty teams with our physicians to provide patients with therapies that best complement their current scope of treatment. She is able to offer the Chinese medicine therapies of acupuncture and acupressure, moxibustion, and tui na, as well as herbal treatments. She also works with patients using Japanese Reiki therapy and guided imagery. These complementary therapies have been shown to strengthen immunity; ease stress, anxiety and pain; and help with loss of appetite. The complementary medicine therapies are seamlessly integrated into patients’ treatments with constant consultation with their physician. Complementary medicine is available to patients throughout every step of their treatment. These therapies address the whole mind, body and spirit of the patient and in turn may improve the patient’s quality of life. Alternative therapies have been mainstreamed into almost every department at CHOC. Though suffering from a number of misperceptions, complementary medicine (also known as “alternative medicine”) is a well-defined system of medicine ruled by JCAHO controls and OSHA standards. Working with children as young as newborns, McCarty has treated more than 400 patients. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, complementary medicine is available to children at CHOC free-of-charge.
Our Rehabilitation Services Program is committed to helping children with cancer reach their potential – physically and socially – and return to home and school as quickly as possible. Using a comprehensive team approach, Rehabilitation Services offers the full array of physical, occupational, speech, hearing, respiratory and recreational therapy for infants, children and teenagers. Due to the debilitating effects of medication and radiation, children with cancer have unique rehabilitation needs. Our therapists work closely with physicians to plan our patients’ rehabilitation therapies. Children receive both one-on-one rehabilitation therapy and group therapy. Learn more about Rehabilitation Services at CHOC.
Upon returning to school after being absent for an extended period of time due to illness, the transition can be difficult and scary. At CHOC, we care about making this transition as smooth as possible. We offer school or classroom presentations that:
- Help students and teachers understand what the child has experienced and provide opportunities to learn about the illness and the hospital.
- Offer the patient the chance to “be the expert” and talk about his or her experience and answer questions (if the child is comfortable doing this).
- Clear up misconceptions and rumors as well as encourage classmates to be supportive.
Our child life specialists, who have backgrounds in child development and are certified to work with hospitalized children, give the presentations. Our specialists use age-appropriate videos, books, pictures and illustrations geared toward helping students understand their classmate’s situation in a non-threatening way. Patients and their families can speak with the case coordinator for more information on SEAS Program support.
Music that Heals
It is a known fact that listening to music can soothe one’s soul, but studies have shown that music can also promote the physical healing process. Some of the benefits that aid healing include pain management, relaxation, motor movement, enhancement of self-esteem and other social skills, and providing a positive diversion. In this segment of American Health Journal, Eric Mammen, founder of the music program at CHOC, explains what a music therapist does and how therapy offers a number of benefits for the children.