Caring for an Elderly Mesothelioma Patient by TimPovtak
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is difficult to diagnose and even tougher to treat effectively, requiring a specialist who understands its intricacies. It is caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos, which was used extensively throughout America in the 20th century. Although the use of asbestos has been
dramatically curtailed in recent decades, the lengthy latency period (20 to 50
years) between exposure and diagnosis is one reason the average age of a
mesothelioma patient is 60-plus years old.
Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – a multi-faceted approach – have proven to be the most effective tools in fighting mesothelioma, but they can be taxing on both patient and caregiver. For patients undergoing these taxing treatments, the risk of falling can add yet another layer of worry and complexity to the care.
While there is no cure for mesothelioma, and recent advances in therapy provide some hope, all too often an accurate diagnosis doesn’t occur until after the cancer has spread, thereby limiting the treatment options.
Like many cancers, mesothelioma is a disease that often effects more than just the victim, taking a physical and emotional toll on loved ones serving as caregivers. Caring for an elderly patient with mesothelioma can be a daunting task, requiring a commitment that, at times, might seem overwhelming.
Mesothelioma is rare (an estimated 3,000 Americans are diagnosed annually) and is often misdiagnosed by medical professionals and misunderstood by caregivers.
Here are a few tips for caregivers to use:
- Educate yourself. Learn everything you can about the disease, about treatment plans, and symptoms and what to expect. It can help reduce the anxiety and frustration.
- Keep records. Mark down everything that happens and document every change in health and behavior of the patient, both the positive and negative. It can help eliminate confusion.
- Accept help. When friends or family members offer to help, accept it willingly. Caregiving for a mesothelioma patient is not a one-person job. It’s too big. Home-care services also can be helpful.
- Stay Healthy. Caregivers often put so much into their role that they neglect taking care of themselves, mentally and physically, which only adds to the problem. Take time away and find ways to reduce stress.
- Find a support group. Find others who are dealing with the same issues as you are.
“You have to make choices in fighting this disease. Fear will destroy you,” said caregiver Geri Lepore, who cared for husband Gene Lepore until he died in 2010. She shared her story with Asbestos.com. “It wasn’t ‘I have cancer.’ It was ‘we have cancer.’ It invaded our home, our family. But we never ran from it. We gave it our best.”
Tim Povtak writes about veterans and survivors of asbestos-related diseases for The Mesothelioma Center. For more information please contact Mesothelioma Center 189 South Orange Avenue suite 1600 Orlando, FL 32801 800-615-2270 or visit www.asbestos.com .