Patient immobilization is an essential aspect of qualitative and effective radiotherapy treatment. However, the thought
of being immobilized under a mask can seem daunting to any adult patient let alone to a younger patient.
With a couple of creative and soothing measures, you can make the experience a lot more pleasant for young patients
and their family.
Below is a list of five helpful tools and ideas that will comfort and empower paediatric patients during their radiotherapy journey.
1. Magic string trick
Children cannot be accompanied by their parents during the actual treatment, which can be a distressing aspect of radiation therapy. The magic string trick is a great solution that helps young patients feel more secure.
Children will be in the treatment room by themselves during #radiotherapy
To help ease separation anxiety the child holds one side of the string and the parent the other side, so they’ve still got that connection.
— Lobke Marsden (@lobke_marsden) November 15, 2017
It involves using a long (colourful) piece of string. One end of the string is held by the child during treatment, the other end by the parents who are waiting outside the treatment room. This way they still have that connection and will feel that their parents are right there with them.
2. Paint your patient’s mask
A radiotherapy mask as it is, can look boring at best and a little scary at worst to a child. If you enjoy being creative, turn the mask into something special for your patient. Ask your patient about their favourite Disney princess, superhero, fantasy character… Anything is possible with some paint.
Decorations can truly work wonders on any mask and transform it into a comforting companion cheering on to push through treatment. Read about the value in decoration of paediatric immobilization masks here.
For anyone who wants to get started with mask decoration we created these tutorials:
3. Decorate with stickers
Sticker decorations are easy to use and instantly brighten up a mask. Children can use stickers to decorate their mask themselves and turn it into something fun and beautiful.
The Orfit Sticker Sheet was specifically designed to decorate radiotherapy masks. These stickers are ideal for a quick and colourful decoration of thermoplastic masks.
Children can get as creative as they want. Encourage them to mix and match or add on to the stickers with crayons or a water-based coloured pen. A fun idea is to write the first letter of the patient’s name in the superhero logo or crown sticker.
4. Informative picture books and videos
It is important for a young patient to understand what radiotherapy treatment means and what to expect. Many picture books and videos are available that explain the “why’s” and “how’s” of radiotherapy in a playful manner.
A great example is the “Raf the Giraffe Guidance Package” (only available in Belgium and France). This box offers an answer to the many questions a child may have. This guidance box includes:
- A stuffed hand puppet
- An activity book explaining all the elements of radiation therapy treatment.
- A countdown calendar with emotive stickers to help express and talk about emotions and feelings.
- A small thermoplastic immobilization mask that the child or the therapist can apply to Raf the Giraffe.
The following videos and books are wonderful at explaining radiation therapy in a light and clear way:
- One of a Kind! A Guide to Radiotherapy (video)
- Radiotherapy by The Brain Tumour Charity (video)
- Will and Sophie Have Radiotherapy (book)
- Big Tree is Sick (book)
5. Linac Model
A small model of a radiation therapy system can help children understand what happens during treatment. The therapist can use the model to show how, for example, a Linac moves and works. The child can also play with it for a while so they will feel more confident when starting their treatment.
With these tools and ideas, you can help children to understand radiotherapy and to feel more at ease around the clinical radiotherapy equipment.
If you have the resources at your centre, try going that extra mile for your younger patients and create a warm and safe environment that will make all the difference.
Contact us for more product information or find your local distributor here.
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