How to Care for a Senior with Mesothelioma from Home
Caring for a loved one at home with malignant mesothelioma cancer can be a richly rewarding experience that dictates just how well that person will live. But without the proper tools, it also can become a daunting, overwhelming task for the caregiver.
Caregiving at home, for most, is an act of love and devotion.
It comes by chance, usually because of a family member’s misfortune. It can be physically and emotionally draining if not approached the right way.
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer typically caused by previous prolonged occupational exposure to asbestos fibers. The most common type is pleural mesothelioma, which starts in the thin membrane surrounding the lungs and eventually spreads through the thoracic cavity.
Early symptoms include shortness of breath, dry hacking cough, weight loss and chest pain. Recent treatment advances have slowed its progression, but mesothelioma remains incurable. The majority of patients live 6-18 months after being diagnosed.
Here are some tips when providing home care:
- Learn everything you can about the disease. Educate yourself. The better you understand it, the better care you can provide. Make sure you are seeing a specialist who understands the disease.
- Take care of yourself — physically and mentally. The better you feel, the better care you will provide. Even with a demanding schedule, find the time to recharge your own batteries. Take a walk every day, and eat right.
- Accept help from others. Don’t be afraid to ask for it either. Much too often, caregivers wear down because they try to do everything themselves. It may seem admirable to spend every last minute alongside your spouse, but that often backfires. Let other family members or friends give you a break.
- Explore complementary or alternative therapies to go with your doctor’s standard-of-care treatment regimen. It might seem odd, but homeopathic treatments, such as anti-oxidants and herbs, can provide relief. Think outside the box. Other therapies, such as yoga and energy therapies, including music, can also help.
- Talk to others dealing with the same rare disease. Join a support group. People in those groups often understand your questions better than doctors. The Mesothelioma Center has a monthly support group that meets online and over the phone each month to discuss various topics that can take away the feeling of isolation when dealing with this rare cancer.
As a mesothelioma caregiver, you might be dealing with medical and legal professionals, remembering treatments and medications, managing financial affairs and treatments.
Caregiving for someone in the latter cancer stages may involve feeding and bathing the patient, too.
There are other things to remember when it comes to the patient living at home. Here are a few:
- Don’t forget to provide emotional support as well as physical. Companionship can be critical to the well-being of a mesothelioma patient. Be a good listener.
- Encourage regular cardiovascular exercise of any sort for the patient. It can alleviate fatigue and nausea.
- Eating properly is important. A balanced diet and plenty of water will prevent dehydration and strengthen the patient.
Also remember that medical equipment, such as hospital beds, shower chairs, wheelchairs and specially designed commodes, can be obtained with the help of health insurance.
Respiratory equipment may be needed at home.
One of the most important aspects of taking care of a mesothelioma patient at home is to know your resources, including having a support system of friends and family that can help you when you need it.
Tim Povtak is a content writer for The Mesothelioma Center and Asbestos.com, an informational source for mesothelioma patients and families.