When a family member is diagnosed with mesothelioma, relatives may take on caregiver roles. Spouses are often primary caregivers, but because mesothelioma disease mostly affects seniors, adult children often take on caregiving responsibilities for their parents.
The roles that a mesothelioma caregiver must play often evolve over the course of their loved one’s disease. The cancer is highly aggressive, and the symptoms intensify rapidly after diagnosis. Chest pain, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue can become so disabling in the later stages of mesothelioma that caregivers must step in and help with daily tasks.
Common Duties of a Mesothelioma Caregiver:
• Helping the patient make and get to doctor’s appointments
• Filling and administering the patient’s prescriptions
• Guiding the patient through hygienic activities such as showering and getting dressed
• Assisting the patient with comfortably resting and moving around the house
• Completing basic household duties such as laundry and cooking
In some families, several people pitch in to provide care for the mesothelioma patient. Families also have the option of arranging inpatient health care from a senior caregiving organization if the patient’s condition gets too severe to manage at home. Thankfully, there are many treatment options to reduce or heal symptoms of mesothelioma. From minor surgeries to simple, out-patient procedures performed in a doctor’s office, there are numerous health care options for seniors with mesothelioma.
The process can be difficult – for both the patient and the caregivers – but many patients successfully receive at-home assistance from their loved ones.
How Caregivers’ Coping Mechanisms Impact their Experience
The pressure of providing care to a terminal cancer patient often leads mesothelioma caregivers to develop coping mechanisms. Many of these habits are mental – and a recent study found that certain negative coping strategies are associated with increased stress and even negative health outcomes.
According to the study, which appears in Supportive Care in Cancer, three negative expectation coping strategies are most associated with emotional and psychological distress: worrying, expecting the worst and getting nervous.
Although caregivers often unconsciously engage in these behaviors, there are easy ways to counteract the detrimental habits.
Coping Strategies for Caregivers:
Focus on the positive. Caregivers who anticipate poor outcomes are only adding to their stress. You may think that you are only being realistic – but even with mesothelioma, this is not always the case. Patients are continually sharing stories of how they beat their prognosis by months or even years – sometimes without a scientific explanation. There’s no reason that the next mesothelioma patient to defy expectations couldn’t be your loved one.
Acknowledge – then dismiss – your worries. It’s easy to panic about your loved one’s diagnosis. It’s also easy to worry that you’re not doing enough to help or that you’re abandoning your other duties. However, these worries are often unfounded. Recognize worrisome thoughts as they pop into your head, and employ healthy ways to process them.
Use healthy coping mechanisms to calm your nerves. When fear arises, look for a healthy coping mechanism to dissipate the nervousness. Different techniques may work for different people – don’t fret if one does not work for you! Yoga, meditation, massage therapy, support groups and counseling can all help calm your worries – and provide some valuable personal time in the process.
These strategies can help alleviate psychological distress in caregivers, but they may also enhance the efficacy of clinical interventions. Caregivers can yield “stronger, long-lasting benefits” by redirecting their coping mechanisms – ultimately benefiting both themselves and the patient.