Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, one that leads to around 3,000 American deaths each year. It’s also a fast-moving cancer, one that quickly spreads to vital organs and can claim the patients’ lives just months after diagnosis. Lastly, it’s a cancer that affects elderly Americans most of all. The average age of diagnosis for mesothelioma is 65, and many patients are older than 70.
For these reasons, caregivers have a heightened importance for elderly mesothelioma patients.
The American Cancer Society’s definition of a caregiver is anyone not paid to provide a patient with medical care. A mesothelioma caregiver could be a spouse, child, parent, sibling or close friend. No matter who they are, the caregiver of a mesothelioma patient gives up much of their time to help the victim. They play a vital role in the patient’s comfort and survival.
Be a Mesothelioma Resource
Most mesothelioma patients aren’t able to grasp many of the scientific concepts related to their cancer. They don’t understand how treatment helps, what doctors are telling them, and more.
A caregiver can be a resource for patients and help them understand their diagnosis. To become this asset, caregivers must research mesothelioma and learn the standard treatment methods and emerging options. They should learn about each type of mesothelioma — pleural, peritoneal and pericardial — and which one the patient has.
Becoming knowledgeable about the disease, from how it forms to where it spreads, is essential. It’ll help the caregiver attend doctor visits and ask pertinent questions, which only serves to benefit the patient.
Increase the Patient’s Comfort
A caregiver’s presence can put the patient at ease. Conversing with them, listening to their struggles and keeping their hopes up are all positives. Companionship is an important aspect of comfort for the patient.
Caregivers also can tend to household chores or scheduling medical appointments. As mesothelioma spreads, the patient’s energy will decrease. They’ll have less physical ability to perform daily tasks. Having a caregiver around to help throughout the day means the patient has less to worry about. They can relax, rest, focus on treatment and spend more time with their loved ones.
Bring a Sense of Normalcy
When a loved one learns they have mesothelioma, their life is uprooted. They’re struggling with grief, on top of physical ailment and fatigue.
As a caregiver, you can help your loved one with the daily tasks they’re unable to complete. Simply washing clothes or dishes could bring a sense of normalcy to your loved one. Other tasks you may help with as a caregiver include:
- Preparing meals
- Managing medication
- Providing transportation
- Communicating with friends or family members
- Paying bills
Remember, mesothelioma is a fast-moving disease. It’s unlike most cancers that take multiple years to significantly spread to organs and impact the patient’s physical abilities. As a caregiver, you may be integral in your loved one’s daily life.