A medical staff will determine the treatment regimen for a patient with mesothelioma cancer, but the primary caregiver will determine just how well that patient lives day to day.

Do not underestimate the role or responsibility of the job. A knowledgeable caregiver is critical. That person is vital in so many ways.

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer typically caused by long-before occupational exposure to asbestos. It affects both a diagnosed patient and the family that surrounds him or her.

The most common type is pleural mesothelioma, which starts in the thin lining surrounding the lungs and spreads throughout the thoracic cavity, making it more difficult to breathe each day.

Caregiving becomes critical soon into the process. Recent mesothelioma treatment advances at specialty centers allow some survivors to live several years after a diagnosis, but there still is no definitive cure. The majority of those diagnosed live for 6 to 18 months.

The role of caregiving has expanded. Depending on a number of factors, a caregiver can help in many ways:

  • Help make decisions. A mesothelioma cancer patient will need help sorting out treatment options that the doctor provides. There are medications, health insurance and legal issues to discuss. Eventually, end-of-life care must be discussed and decided.
  • Provide emotional support. A patient will have ups and downs, highs and lows, every day. There will be bad days and good days, but the caregiver must remain a steadying force. Being a good listener can be helpful. Simple companionship can be important to the well-being of the patient.
  • Monitor a patient’s health. A caregiver can manage a patient’s appointment schedule and report changing health conditions to the medical staff. The caregiver may manage medications at home.
  • Perform everyday chores. Simple tasks that were once taken for granted can quickly become out of reach for a mesothelioma patient. Cooking a meal and cleaning the home may become too difficult. Walking the dog, driving to the grocery store and taking out the trash could become part of a caregiver’s role.
  • The role will intensify as time passes, depending on the success of the treatment. Feeding and bathing may become part of the job.

Caregiving can become overwhelming at times, prompting the need for help.

It is important for a caregiver to ask for assistance, and not try to do this alone. It will help you avoid breaking down, both mentally and physically.

Include other family members and friends. Caregivers must make time to care for themselves. Go for a walk, eat well and take time away.

Remember, the better a caregiver feels, the better care he or she will provide. Caregivers and patients should join a support group, too, giving them someone to discuss their concerns and ask questions.

A support group can help you avoid the feeling of isolation, which often engulfs both patients and caregivers with rare cancers such as mesothelioma.

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