A mesothelioma diagnosis doesn’t just impact the person diagnosed, it affects his or her entire family and circle of friends. As a family member of the individual diagnosed with mesothelioma, this time can seem scary, unreal and overwhelming.
However, coming together as a family to lend support and comfort to the person in need is a vital step, and you can bet that you’ll be called on time and again as a caregiver. We here at Mesothelioma Circle are here to help you during this process, and that’s why we’ve compiled these three tips for coming to terms with your new role as a caregiver in the wake of a mesothelioma diagnosis in your family.
1. Allow time for the mesothelioma diagnosis to sink in
There’s no doubt that learning about a terminal diagnosis will be difficult to accept for your loved one and your extended family and social circles, so start off by allowing time for this mesothelioma diagnosis to sink in. Chances are, your family member will go through some form of the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – which can occur in any order.
During this early period, your primary responsibility should be to come to terms with the news yourself while providing any and all levels of support to your loved one, whether it’s emotional, practical, spiritual or just being someone to sit quietly with. Keep in mind that other family members may be looking for someone to listen as well. A mesothelioma diagnosis is a tough time for any family, but there are ways you can also make the most of the coming months.
2. Don’t go it alone
Your family member is likely comforted by the fact that he or she has loving relatives to lean on during this difficult time, and you should keep this in mind as well. It can feel like a lonely and heavy burden to act as a primary caregiver, but you hardly need to take on these responsibilities all on your own.
Reach out to relatives, friends, neighbors, coworkers and classmates for assistance when you need it. While there are many things you can likely handle by yourself, sometimes just having another person there to share the experience with can make a world of difference – both for yourself and your sick family member.
You may even want to take this opportunity to speak with others about your own fears and concerns, or consider signing up for a group therapy session to vent your feelings about the mesothelioma diagnosis. The American Cancer Society also operates a Cancer Survivors Network to address people and relatives affected by mesothelioma, lung cancer and similar illnesses.
3. Get yourself organized
As a primary caregiver, your life is going to change in more ways than one in the coming months, and organizational prowess will be your key to successful time management. If you need to make arrangements with work, school or other social obligations, get these out of the way early. Your schedule will likely be filled with providing direct care, visits to the doctor, therapy sessions, daily errands and other frequent demands on your time.
If you tend to struggle with self-organization, you may want to enlist the help of a planner or software program that can help keep your upcoming tasks straight and prioritize what’s most important. While your employer or school may be flexible about your duties, you’ll also have to balance these obligations with those of your loved one. Learning as much as you can about mesothelioma – its origins, progress and symptoms – can also help you prepare yourself and your loved one for the future.
Don’t forget to pay attention to your own physical and emotional needs as well. While much of your time may be dedicated to caring for your loved one, making room for regular exercise and preparing healthy, home-cooked meals will help keep you in good shape and spirits. This is also good advice for your family member struggling with mesothelioma, so try to keep a sense of normalcy in his or her life as well. Whether you’re going for a swim together or sitting down to watch a favorite movie, activities like these can make a world of difference.