Be a bright spot in the lives of clients undergoing cancer treatments with these tips on how to care for these customers, body and soul.
5 Common Conditions
Whether caused by the cancer itself or by the side effects of chemotherapy and other treatments, clients with cancer may showcase some of these special conditions. Here’s how to handle them.
1. Lymphedema (swelling caused by lymph accumulating in the tissues)
Get a doctor’s permission before massaging a client with lymphedema. You don’t want to move the lymph around in a way that causes negative effects. Massage requires modification in both techniques and pressure, so a special class on lymphatic massage (which generally involves very light effleurage stroking up the leg toward the heart only) is recommended. Janet McCormick, vice president of education and managing partner at the MediNail Learning Center, adds that clients with lymphedema should not be soaked during a pedicure.
2. Dryness and sensitivity of the skin
Many physicians treating cancer recommend specific prescription or over-the-counter moisturizing and healing lotions and other treatments. “If there are no recommendations, the tech needs to seek out unscented and gentle products with highly humectant ingredients,” McCormick says.
3. Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage)
Clients suffering from peripheral neuropathy may not be able to tell you if you are hurting them or even if you knick them. If you use hot towels for treatments, Fredriksen recommends letting towels cool down a bit or using cool towels altogether. She also cautions you to be gentle with your touch. “Surprisingly what doesn’t seem painful to you might be painful to them,” Fredriksen says.
4. Dry or brittle nails
Perform a waterless service. Use a file with a gentle grit. Use a gentle cuticle oil on the nails. If you notice other abnormalities of the nails, have the client check with her doctor if polish is OK for her nails and what prep work (if any) is acceptable.
5. Compromised immune system
Go above and beyond with your cleanliness standards. Don’t use any invasive techniques such as trimming cuticles or cutting calluses. Sterilize all implements using an autoclave or throw them away after one use. Wipe down with disinfectant all surfaces the client may come into contact with from the desk to the chairs to the reception desk to the light switches.
A Note on Doctors’ Notes
Many doctors will inform clients when beauty services are off limits during cancer treatments and will give them the green light when hand and foot services are OK. But that’s not always the case. If a client tells you she’s going through treatment and is unsure if her doctor OK with her having a service, Fredriksen offers this advice: Explain to the client it’s your policy to have a doctor’s note on file to verify that treatments are allowed. If a client has to bring a note, offer her an upgrade on her next visit or a gift card she can use toward another spa service, such as a facial, especially if you have staff trained in oncology esthetics.
What If a Client Loses Her Battle?
Sam Rivenbark, a nail tech at East Coast Acrylic in Edenton, N.C., provides mani-pedi house calls to clients with cancer as part of a community service program called The Mani-Cure Project. Even if a client loses her battle with cancer, you can still offer one more nail service. “Not only should you go to the funeral but I would also offer my services to the family,” Rivenbark says. “Some techs may not be able to due to clients’ families’ beliefs, but others will give you the name of the funeral director and home so you can make sure even in their final resting that their nails are as amazing as they were.”
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