You probably know that asbestos can cause the cancer known as mesothelioma. This is a rare cancer that grows in the mesothelium, the thin protective tissue that surrounds organs like the lungs and heart.
You may also know that there is no known cure for mesothelioma. There are treatments that can improve a victim’s quality of life and lifespan. Sometimes, doctors may remove the tumors with surgery and kill the remaining cancer cells with chemotherapy, but there’s not yet a reliable cure.
What many people often overlook with the initial diagnosis is that mesothelioma affects more than the victim. It also affects their loved ones and families. Victims must make the biggest adjustments, of course, but their families often make giant adjustments, too. So, what should family members expect as they become caregivers?
Caregivers play many valuable roles
As the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) notes, mesothelioma can add a lot of strain and stress to victims’ lives. The disease often means big changes to victims’ physical, emotional and financial lives. And, as a result, there are many ways that caregivers can help.
- Being present and providing emotional support
- Discussing medical decisions with the victim and health team
- Administering medications
- Providing transportation to and from medical appointments
- Doing chores around the house
- Helping with the insurance and finances
Notably, a caregiver’s role may change over time. It may even change from day to day because mesothelioma victims can have good and bad days.
It’s also possible for friends and family members to work together as caregivers. They might each take responsibility for certain tasks.
Caregivers often need their own support
The work of caring for someone with mesothelioma can be physically and emotionally taxing. As a result, even though many caregivers find the work meaningful and rewarding, they may get worn down. It is not uncommon for caregivers to become tired and depressed.
The American Cancer Society recognizes that this is a common issue for cancer caregivers of all sorts. Accordingly, they recommend that caregivers make sure to portion out time for their own needs:
- Social recreation with other people
- Hobbies or projects that offer a sense of accomplishment
- Spiritual support, prayer, journaling or meditation
- Support groups with other caregivers
Caregivers help their loved ones focus on the good in life, but if they don’t take time for themselves, they may feel swallowed by their new duties. It’s important they keep a healthy balance in their lives. The balance will help them maintain a sense of perspective and a healthy outlook. That, in turn, will help them better care for the ones they love.
No one has to struggle alone
For those with mesothelioma, caregivers play an invaluable role. Mesothelioma can be rough. Of that, there’s no doubt. But survivors often express how much they appreciate the time they spend with the ones they love.
At the same time, it’s important for caregivers to acknowledge their own struggles. The truth is that mesothelioma is a struggle for them, too. It may not be the same struggle for them as for their loved ones, but they should be realistic about the adjustments they’ll have to make. Among other things, that may mean admitting that their energy has a limit and knowing when it’s their turn to ask for help.