Friday 31 August 2012

Caring for the Cancer Patient - Today: Mesothelioma

Recently, I received an email requesting a guest blogger spot on the subject of caregiving for people suffering from Mesothelioma, a type of cancer often caused by exposure to asbestos.  This got me thinking that perhaps we should do a mini-series based on caring for various cancers.  Perhaps a series devoted to caring that is specific to different conditions generally.  What do you think?
Here is the first instalment of a series of posts that will appear from time to time devoted to the type of care specific to various conditions. 

What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is rare type of cancer that affects the meothelium-the thin, protective membrane that covers the lungs, heart, and other internal body organs. The disease is mostly caused by asbestos exposure.
The Difference Between Caring for Seniors and Mesothelioma Patients
Whether they are parents or grandparents or even spouses or aging friends, many people care for seniors at some point in their lives. It’s quite common for people to help their older loved ones with basic medical needs or simple tasks around the house.
But few people ever have the experiencing of caring for a mesothelioma patient.
Mesothelioma patients are almost always seniors, and they typically have many more care requirements than the average older adult. Their health condition can become heavily symptomatic in a short amount of time, and caregivers may need to add on new responsibilities on a regular basis. Caregivers also have the task of helping mesothelioma patients cope with pain, fatigue and breathlessness.
Unlike seniors who are dealing with the natural aging process, mesothelioma patients often have to cope with physiological difficulties associated with a terminal cancer diagnosis. They may struggle with feelings of isolation, loneliness and fear. As a result, caregivers may need to provide a higher level of emotional support.   
Types of Care that Mesothelioma Patients Need from their Caregiver
As their cancer progresses and taking care of themselves gets increasingly difficult, many mesothelioma patients rely on their caregivers for hygienic assistance. Here, caregivers often provide the same types of care as they would provide to any other senior. 
They can help patients get dressed, shower, brush their teeth or comb their hair. Caregivers may also provide bathroom assistance.
Caregivers often help mesothelioma patients with personal tasks as well. Typically, as the cancer progresses, it becomes more difficult for patients to handle responsibilities such as driving, making appointments, running errands and keeping the house tidy. When caregivers assume their new role, they often spend a good portion of their day helping the patient keep up with these tasks.
Generally, caregivers are not responsible for providing medical care to mesothelioma patients. The health care services that help mesothelioma patients should typically be performed by a licensed medical professional. Caregivers can, however, help patients remember to take their medications or change the tanks on an oxygen system. 
Caregivers will have to work with the patient to help them stay comfortable when symptoms become stronger. In some cases, caregivers can provide supplemental oxygen to patients who are struggling to breathe. In other cases, caregivers offer more general palliative care, such as positioning the patient in a way that helps open up their airways. 
To help mesothelioma patients relax, caregivers may want to guide patients through visualization exercises or other calming techniques. They can also encourage patients to stay active in support groups, yoga classes or other stress-relieving activities.
Caregivers may also benefit from attending these activities with their patient. Mesothelioma caregiving can be a challenge – but with the proper outlets for diffusing the stress, it can be a smooth, rewarding experience!
Author bio: Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for The Mesothelioma Center. One of her focuses is living with cancer.

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