|Posted on May 31, 2017 at 3:40 PM|
Caring for a loved one with mesothelioma can be a richly-rewarding experience. But it also can be a daunting responsibility that overwhelms you. For most people, caregiving is not a planned role. It usually comes by chance, often because of a family members sudden misfortune. It may be taken as an act of love, yet it can become physically and emotionally draining. Everyone loses if you let that happen. It may sound selfish, but you have to take care of yourself, too. If you don't, it's hard to be a good caregiver, said Linda Chitwood, who has been her husband's caregiver for more than 10 years. It's like the pilots say on the commercial flights: 'When the oxygen masks drop down, put your own on first, then tend to your loved ones.' Her husband, Lannie Chitwood, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2007. He's undergone aggressive surgery that has helped him survive considerably longer than most mesothelioma patients, but there has been a myriad of ups and downs since then. Linda wrote Fear 2 Faith: Our Journey Through Mesothelioma, which chronicles her caregiver experience. It contains heartwarming and heartbreaking stories. She emphasizes that caregivers should not lose sight of their own lives while caring for a loved one. Sometimes, I think caregivers are the forgotten casualty in all this, she said. Caregiving can be terribly isolating if you're not careful. As a mesothelioma caregiver ( https://www.asbestos.com/support/caregivers/ ) , you may be dealing with medical and legal professionals, remembering treatments and medications, and managing doctor appointments and financial affairs. You will be providing emotional support and health monitoring. You may be helping with everyday chores. At some point, you may be feeding and bathing the patient. Trying to maintain your own life may be difficult, but it is important, she emphasizes. To improve patient care, here a five things to remember: 1. Ask for help. Let other family members and friends give you time away to recharge. Too often a caregiver or spouse tries to do everything, and it becomes overwhelming. Do not try to do it alone. 2. Take a walk every day, either alone or with friends. Make time to get some kind of exercise daily. 3. Join a support group. It can feel isolating being a caregiver, especially with a rare disease such as mesothelioma. It is hard to find answers to questions you will have. Talking to others dealing with the same issues can be very helpful. The Mesothelioma Center has a monthly support group that meets online or over the phone. 4. Talk to professionals. Because caregivers typically don't have medical or nursing degrees, talk to people who do for tips. It will help you learn how to manage your patient's symptoms, pain and safety. 5. Take good care of yourself, too, physically and mentally. Eat right, get your rest, and do not isolate yourself. Find the time to do it all. Dealing with an uncertain future can be difficult. Most people are ill-prepared for the role of caregiver, but they are capable of adapting. Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer most often caused by a long-ago occupational exposure to asbestos. It may start with a diagnosis of the patient, but it soon engulfs the entire family. Caregiving becomes critical quickly in the process. There is no definitive cure for mesothelioma, and the typical diagnosis is 9-18 months. Recent treatment advances, though, at specialty centers have allowed survivors to live two, three or five years beyond their life expectancy, making the caregiver role more critical than ever. Take care of yourself. Tim Povtak is a content writer for The Mesothelioma Center and Asbestos.com, an informational source for mesothelioma patients and families.