Managing Complications in Terminal Cancer Care: A Case Study and Family Dynamics

Caring for patients with terminal cancer is both challenging and emotionally charged. In this article, we’ll explore a complex case of a 38-year-old woman admitted to a long-term care facility with terminal cancer. We’ll delve into potential complications, family dynamics, and how the diagnosis can change over time while debunking the notion that the development of problems equates to poor nursing care.


Terminal cancer presents a multitude of physical, emotional, and familial challenges. This case study highlights a patient’s journey through long-term care while addressing potential complications, family involvement, and the evolving nature of nursing diagnoses.

Anticipated Complications in Terminal Cancer Care

  1. Infection Risk: Patients with weakened immune systems, like this woman with terminal cancer, are at higher risk of infections, especially if they have open wounds or compromised skin integrity.
  2. Pressure Ulcers: Prolonged immobility and poor nutrition can lead to pressure ulcers (bedsores), which are not only painful but also susceptible to infection.
  3. Opioid-Related Issues: Managing significant pain with an implanted morphine pump can lead to opioid overdose or adverse reactions if not closely monitored.

Family Dynamics and Nursing Diagnosis

  1. Family Situation Diagnosis: In this scenario, a suitable nursing diagnostic statement to describe the family situation could be: “Family Coping with Terminal Illness and Maintaining Normalcy: Maternal grandmother supporting the patient’s three children while preserving uninterrupted visits.”

Evolving Diagnoses in Terminal Cancer Care

a. Change in Diagnosis: The diagnosis initially focused on “Risk for Malnutrition and Pressure Ulcers” as a preventive measure. However, it evolves into “Actual Malnutrition and Pressure Ulcers” as the patient loses weight and develops redness over bony prominences.

b. Nursing Care Quality: The development of problems does not necessarily reflect poor nursing care. Terminal cancer itself is a complex condition, and the progression of symptoms is expected. Nursing care should be evaluated based on the provision of compassionate, supportive, and holistic care to address the evolving needs of the patient.


Caring for individuals with terminal cancer involves addressing potential complications, understanding family dynamics, and adapting nursing diagnoses as the patient’s condition changes. The development of problems does not inherently signify poor nursing care; rather, it underscores the progressive nature of terminal illnesses. Nurses play a crucial role in managing these complexities, offering not only physical care but also emotional support to enhance the quality of life for patients and their families during this challenging journey.


Approximately 250 words

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