Mesothelioma is a progressive, malignant, and progressive type of cancer. It can only rarely be cured, and most people living with this disease will only get sicker with time. Treatments can extend life and relieve symptoms, but ultimately the cancer will take over and cause more symptoms and more severe symptoms. Depending on the patient and the stage of the cancer, a caregiver may be needed.
Caregivers are people who assist those who are ill. A caregiver may be a family member or a professional health care worker. This person may come to the patient’s home for a few hours a day or live there. Caregivers also work in health care facilities and work with patients on a residential or outpatient basis. They provide all kinds of care from basics like feeding to minor medical care such as administration of medications. Caregiving is an important job, but it isn’t easy and sometimes the caregivers also need care and support.
What Is a Caregiver?
A mesothelioma caregiver, or any type of cancer caregiver, is someone who provides assistance, usually on a daily basis to someone with cancer who cannot fully care for himself. Caregivers are just one part of a complete cancer care team. They provide some of the most basic, daily type of care, such as helping the patient bathe to ensuring that the right medications are being taken to helping make decisions about care and treatment. As a part of the total team, these caregivers must also communicate with doctors and other medical professionals, regarding the patient’s symptoms, reactions to treatment, and any other issues.
For many people struggling with any illness, including mesothelioma, the primary caregivers are family members and friends. There may be one main caregiver, such as a spouse or adult child, or many hands may chip in to do the work of caring for an ailing loved one. Many people rely on family for caregiving for a variety of reasons. It may feel more comfortable to have loved ones providing basic care. The caregivers themselves may choose to assist because of a sense of duty and love. Sometimes it simply comes down to finances and a patient may not have the resources to be able to afford a professional caregiver.
There are many benefits to relying on family caregivers. It gives family the chance to spend more time together, especially because the patient has a limited life expectancy. It may also make the patient more comfortable to be around loved ones instead of professionals, no matter how caring they may be. There are downsides, too. Family caregivers are typically not trained in caregiving. They may experience significant stress and other mental health symptoms from the change in role between son, daughter, or spouse, to caregiver.
While most mesothelioma patients are now relying on family members as primary caregivers, some will also hire professional caregivers. These are people who are paid to assist cancer patients. They are trained to do these jobs with at least a minimum amount of medical training, like first aid, CPR, and administration of medications.
Professional caregivers have specific duties outlined, and their roles may be less involved than those of family caregivers. They may not, for instance, be involved in decision making about treatments, but they do communicate with family members and doctors to notify them of any changes in the patient or concerns about their symptoms and overall well-being.
What Mesothelioma Caregivers Do
The role of a caregiver is crucial and also varied. The basic role of a caregiver is to provide care and assistance to the sick patient in whatever form that takes. Typically the kind of care a patient will need ranges from normal day-to-day activities that they cannot do any longer, to help with treatments and managing symptoms. A caregiver may do the household cleaning, shopping, cooking, laundry, bill paying, and other chores.
More directly helping the patient, the caregiver may also keep track of and administer medications, communicate with doctors, drive the patient to appointments, coordinate appointments and care, and track financial information and medical bills. The caregiver is also needed to help the patient take care of personal needs, such as bathing, changing clothes, going to the bathroom, and taking care of other types of hygiene tasks. A caregiver is also someone that the patient relies upon for emotional support.
When Caregivers Need Support
Caregivers, especially those that are unpaid family members, take on a very important role in the care of a mesothelioma patient. They do a lot of work that is physical, mental, and emotional. Doing all this work, on top of watching a loved one suffer and experiencing the changing roles between patient and caregiver, can really take a toll on someone. Caregivers often suffer from isolation, depression, anxiety, and physical problems like fatigue.
Caregivers need support and one of the most important ways to give it is to help them. When the burden of caring for a patient can be split between two or more family members, the burden on each is much less. It even helps when another family member or friend can step in to do things like cleaning or grocery shopping. These small jobs pile up and helping with them can make a big difference to the caregiver.
For caregivers with few other family members or friends to rely on, support groups can help. There are support groups for caregivers so that people in these unique roles can commiserate, share stories, and help each other get through the passing of a loved one. Caregivers should also be encouraged to take time off to rest, relax, and recover. It may feel like abandoning the patient, but a caregiver cannot give the best care if she is emotionally drained and physically exhausted.
Financial Assistance for In-Home Care
Even when a mesothelioma patient is relying mainly on a family caregiver, being able to bring in professional help is often necessary. A paid caregiver may be needed for more advanced medical care or to give the family member a chance to take a break. Not everyone can easily afford this type of care, but there are avenues for assistance. Medicare and Medicaid may be options, for instance, while veterans can check with the VA to find out if they are eligible for home care services.
Mesothelioma caregivers, whether paid or unpaid, do an important job caring for vulnerable patients. They must be compassionate, caring, and prepared to help a patient do the things they used to be able to do for themselves. It is an important job, but it is not easy. Caregivers need to remember that the also need care. They need breaks, support, and help from others in order to do the best job possible.
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