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Mesothelioma Hospice Care

Mesothelioma is a terrible diagnosis to get. It is an aggressive kind of cancer, most often caused by asbestos exposure, and it is rarely curable. Most patients with this type of cancer will have a limited life expectancy and will have to come to terms with a shorter life than was expected. Along with this the patient must also cope with symptoms of cancer and its treatment and being unable to fully care for oneself.

One of the devastating choices that mesothelioma patients must ultimately make, along with their loved ones, is how to face the end of life. For many this means hospice care, the kind of care that strives to provide physical, medical, emotional, and spiritual support that will help mesothelioma patients face death and make that final transition.

What is Hospice Care?

There are many decisions to be made at the end of a person’s life after struggling with mesothelioma. One of these is how to get or provide care, and for many people this means making the choice to go with hospice care. Hospice is care for people who are approaching the end of life because of a medical condition. A team of health care workers provide care and support with the primary goal of making the patient as comfortable as is possible. Unlike other types of medical care, curing an illness is not the goal of hospice.

Mesothelioma Hospice Home Care vs. Facility

Hospice care services are not restricted to any one location. The care may be given at a patient’s home, in the hospital, in a nursing home or assisted living facility, or in a dedicated hospice facility in which patients reside permanently. With home care, the primary caregiver is likely to be a family member, supported by the various members of a hospice care team. These other members may visit the patient on a regular or semi-regular basis, but the bulk of care is provided by the family member.

In a facility that cares for the patient, the hospice team may be there around the clock or during dedicated hours. At a facility dedicated completely to hospice care, the patient will receive 24-hour care and support from professional caregivers, although of course family caregivers may also be there to provide support and assistance.

The Professional Hospice Care Team

Wherever hospice care is administered, it involves a complete team of professionals who can provide different types of support to the mesothelioma patient. Medical doctors, usually including a primary care doctor as well as oncologists and specialists, oversee the medical care of the patient and direct any treatments and medications.

The team also includes nurses, health aides, and medical assistants, trained medical professionals who provide the hands-on care that patients need on a daily basis. They administer medications, coordinate care, communicate with doctors, and provide patients with assistance for dressing, bathing, eating, and other personal needs. Volunteers may also be involved in hospice care, providing services like transportation, food preparation, and cleaning.

Social workers, counselors, therapists, and spiritual leaders are also involved in hospice care to provide patients with non-medical support. These professionals help hospice patients cope with the emotional and spiritual aspects of facing death. Other professionals on the team may include occupational therapists, art and music therapists, physical therapists, and more.

Services Hospice Care Provides for Mesothelioma Patients

Hospice care, no matter where it is provided, offers a wide range of services and support for end-of-life patients. A primary service is palliative medical care. This is medical care that is aimed at making patients comfortable, as opposed to curing a disease or extending life expectancy. Surgery, minor procedures, and medications can be used to manage symptoms.

Hospice services also include non-medical care. This can range from all kinds of therapy—physical, occupational, speech, music, art—to alternative medical practices, like acupuncture, massage and yoga. These kinds of non-medical services help make patients feel better and give them a better quality of life overall.

Hospice care also includes personal and hygiene care. When a patient can no longer be independent, hospice caregivers will help with bathing, going to the bathroom, dressing, and other personal care needs. Nutrition and diet planning is also a common service provided in hospice care. Adequate nutrition is an important part of feeling as well as possible. Finally, hospice provides psychological and spiritual support. Therapists, psychologists, social workers, and priests, chaplains, and rabbis, are on hand to counsel patients and their families.

How Hospice Benefits Loved Ones

Hospice care is primarily for the patient nearing death, but it can benefit the loved ones of the patient as well. This kind of care may help provide peace of mind to the loved ones watching a family member suffer and die. Being able to provide them with the best are and support helps family better cope with the loss. Hospice care also provides loved ones with a practical type of assistance. Being a family caregiver is hard work and stressful. Hospice can step in when that caregiver needs a break.

Hospice care teams include bereavement counselors, who work mostly with the loved ones of the patients. They can help family and friends cope with the stress of watching a loved one deteriorate and die. They are also available after the passing of the hospice patient to help loved ones work through the loss and its accompanying grief.

Choosing Hospice Services

When the time has come to provide hospice care for a loved one with mesothelioma, there are a lot of options. The patient should have as much say in the decision as possible, but family caregivers may need to make the final choice, dictated by practical concerns such as location and cost. Within the necessary parameters, loved ones of course want to choose the best care and there are several factors to consider.

For instance, caregivers must consider whether or not a residential facility makes sense. Maybe the patient would be happier at home, but it just isn’t practical. When choosing a hospice care team, whether at a residential facility or to provide care in home, families should ask lots of questions and be sure that the care providers make the patient feel comfortable. Cost is another consideration. Families may be limited by health insurance or money when choosing the hospice team.

If you are facing this end-of-life care, whether as the patient or the loved one of a patient, the decision isn’t easy. It is important, though, to give dying patients the best palliative and supportive care possible. It is something that everyone deserves.

Page edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.

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