A mesothelioma diagnosis can shake up a family. Knowing that your loved one is diagnosed with terminal cancer can feel overwhelming.
Caring for someone with mesothelioma and processing your emotional response to the diagnosis is no easy task. But there are strategies to reduce stress, resources to help with caregiving and ways to balance your time and responsibilities.
In addition to the following tips, make sure to take care of your health by eating well, making time for exercise and doing your best to get quality sleep at night.
Unite Your Support System
Caring for someone with cancer takes a team. A primary caregiver is often supported by family, friends and neighbors. There’s no harm in accepting help from others. Doing it all yourself can become overwhelming. Reach out to loved ones, friends and other members of your community, such as churches and nonprofits — you just might form a support group that will prevent you from burning out.
Organize Medical Treatment and Paperwork
You can reduce overall stress by keeping medical treatment and information organized. For example, creating a list of medicines and indicating when they should be administered will prevent you from having to memorize a medication schedule. The list will come in handy for doctor appointments, too.
Keeping medical records and receipts organized will help you reference all the information that’s hard to absorb during doctor appointments. These records could come in handy in the future, so consider a filing system that’s easy to reference. Ask a family member or friend to take on this role so you can focus on the physical and emotional aspects of caregiving.
Take Breaks to Re-Energize
Caregiving on top of taking care of you is no stress-free task. Taking little breaks throughout the day and longer breaks throughout the week offers mental and physical relief. You can spare five or 10 minutes throughout your day to enjoy some deep breathing, a walk around the block or simply laying down to rest your eyes, body and mind. Blocking off an hour to yourself a few times a week will help you maintain your physical and mental health.
There’s no denying it: Mental health counseling helps people cope better with life’s stress. Emotionally processing a loved one’s cancer diagnosis is challenging, but counselors can help you find meaning and peace in your struggles. Counselors can help you figure out a healthy balance of taking care of yourself and your loved one.
In addition to one-on-one counseling, joining a cancer support group can help you connect with and receive support from others going through a similar experience. There’s an online support group for mesothelioma patients and their caregivers that meets the second Wednesday of every month at 8 p.m. EST. You can sign up here.
Know Your Options
As mesothelioma progresses, it may become increasingly challenging to care for your loved one without the help of a health professional. If you’re not familiar with hospice care, it is a type of health care for people with a life expectancy of six months or less. Hospice is often covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most health insurance plans. In-home nursing may be covered by some insurance plans as well.
Caregiving is emotionally draining and rewarding. Being there for your loved one in their time of need is something you’ll be proud of when you look back on the experience. Be sure to take care of yourself along the journey, because it’ll make you a better caregiver and allow you to appreciate the time you have left with your loved one.
Author bio: Michelle Whitmer has been a medical writer and editor for The Mesothelioma Center since 2008. Focused on the benefits of natural and holistic medicine for cancer patients, Michelle is a certified yoga instructor and earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Rollins College in Florida.
American Cancer Society. (2013, November 5). Caring for the patient with cancer at home: A guide for patients and families. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/physicalsideeffects/dealingwithsymptomsathome/caring-for-the-patient-with-cancer-at-home-intro
American Cancer Society. (2014, April 28). Organizing medical treatment and paperwork. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/treatment/caregivers/caregiving/whatyouneedtoknow/what-you-need-to-know-as-a-cancer-caregiver-staying-organized
Cancer Support Community. (n/a). Tips for caregivers. Retrieved from http://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/MainMenu/Family-Friends/Caregiving/Tips-for-Caregivers.html