Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer usually caused by occupational asbestos exposure. It may start with the diagnosis of the patient, but it quickly should become a family affair.
It will take a team to provide the best possible care.
A medical staff will determine the treatment regimen, but caregivers will decide just how well the patient lives. Those duties will grow as the cancer progresses.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive cure for mesothelioma.
The typical life expectancy is 18 months, although recent mesothelioma clinical trials have allowed some patients to live two, three or four years longer and beyond.
Family support is imperative. This is not the time to be independent and go it alone. Make it a group effort.
Family caregivers can help guide mesothelioma patients in many ways.
Bring a Positive Attitude
Emotional support is sometimes as important as physical support.
A caregiver should be a steadying force. There will be ups and downs, good days and bad days for the patient, regardless of the cancer’s stage.
Being a good listener is key. Simple companionship will be critical. Provide hope to the patient. Encourage those who visit to come with a positive attitude.
Help Make Decisions
Even an independent patient is going to need help sorting out health insurance, treatment options, financial decisions and occasionally legal issues.
In earlier stages of the disease, there will be doctor appointments and medications to sort through. Later, there will be end-of-life decisions to help make.
Family members can also often provide details to the medical staff that a patient may not remember to provide.
Join a Support Group
Family caregivers can get ideas and help from a mesothelioma support group, just like a patient can. With a rare cancer like this, no one will know your situation and concerns better than someone else in a similar role.
Questions can be answered and ideas exchanged. Doctors and nurses won’t be around all the time. Support groups can help by phone, online or even in person if you are close.
Get Help with Everyday Chores
A mesothelioma patient often will need help with things like cooking meals, cleaning the home, walking the dog or going to the grocery store.
Things that once were taken for granted can become very important for a patient.
If you are the spouse or primary caregiver, ask others to help you.
Mesothelioma patients benefit greatly from regular exercise on any level.
It will improve appetite, boost energy and improve mental health and mood. Exercise — even short, slow walks — will improve cardiovascular condition, muscular fitness and sleep.
Total bed rest is not recommended for cancer patients anymore.
Take Care of Yourself, Too
Caregiving for a mesothelioma patient can be overwhelming, mentally and physically.
A healthy, happy caregiver will provide better support.
Discover ways to eat right and exercise as a caregiver. Take breaks by enlisting other friends or family to help, giving you time away.
Find a way to reduce the stress of caregiving.