When a family member is diagnosed with mesothelioma, you want to do everything to make their experience comfortable. This is because the diagnosis leaves families wondering how to provide the best care at home.
Mesothelioma is a condition that mostly attacks the lungs and makes it difficult for the patient to breathe. This means that caregivers should pay special attention to lung health and help the patient cope with the discomfort. Besides, caregivers should work on reducing the effects of mesothelioma symptoms and treatment side effects.
There is so much you can do to make this possible. Remember that the patient needs all the support they can get, especially in the advanced stages of mesothelioma. Caregiving can take a toll on your mental and physical health, and it is vital that you also take care of yourself. Here are some tips on how you can make your loved ones more comfortable as they battle mesothelioma.
Create a Support Team
When a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma, one of the things you should do is create a support team. This is essential because one person cannot manage all the caregiving responses effectively. They will be overwhelmed and end up mismanaging the mesothelioma patient. Given the many needs of a bedridden patient, one person can’t guarantee proper care. Therefore, if you want to make your loved one more comfortable, you should create a support team. Dividing responsibilities among family members goes a long way in providing the best care for a mesothelioma patient. You can reach out to extended family members, neighbors, friends, and other community members for any help you can get. A support team will also help you focus on other things other than mesothelioma caregiving responsibilities. You will find time to relax, hang out with friends, and work on your ambitions.
Thankfully, you can easily get help for mesothelioma patients thanks to the many organizations designed for that purpose. Organizations such as Lotsa Helping Hands can help coordinate meals and transport your loved one to medical appointments and other related activities. If you have an extended family, the better. In-laws can take over household chores like doing dishes, laundry, and cleaning up the house. This will free up time for caregivers.
Promote Hygiene and Good Grooming
Hygiene is vital for a person battling mesothelioma. Therefore, promoting hygiene practices is one way to make your loved one more comfortable. A bedridden mesothelioma patient should have their basic grooming and hygiene needs addressed. Some of the areas to focus on when grooming your loved one include;
Most mesothelioma patients can get up and shower. This is the case, especially if the patient isn’t severely worn-out from mesothelioma symptoms and treatment side effects. However, when the condition advances, the patient might become fatigued and unable to shower. In such cases, you can give them a bed bath to make them comfortable. You wouldn’t want your loved one to remain sweaty and uncomfortable on a hot summer afternoon. Giving them a bed bath helps relax their muscles and keeps them fresh.
- Dental Care
Dental care is vital for everyone, not just mesothelioma patients. While most mesothelioma patients can brush their teeth and clean their mouths, some might be unable to do so. As a caregiver, you should ensure that their oral health is taken care of. You can then brush their teeth and gums for a fresher breath. People feel uncomfortable if their teeth aren’t brushed, which also applies to mesothelioma patients. Therefore, dental care will help enhance their comfort.
Clothing is another thing to focus on when it comes to grooming and hygiene. You should ensure that the patient changes into fresh and clean clothes daily. This is necessary because it helps prevent dirt, bacteria, and germs from causing harm. If the patient is unable to change clothes on their own, help them do so. It is recommended that you change their clothes after every bath.
- Toenails and Fingernails
When a patient is healing from mesothelioma, their bodies can get itchy. Having long fingernails and toenails can result in bodily injuries due to inadvertent scratches. Therefore, you should keep the nails short as much as possible. Besides, long nails are risky because they can become infected or ingrown, leading to discomfort. Ensure these nails are trimmed to keep your loved one comfortable.
- Shaving and Haircuts
It is unhygienic to have long and unkempt hair. Long hair is a breeding ground for parasites that can make the patient uncomfortable. Besides, unkempt hair can result in infestations of bed bugs, lice, and other harmful parasites. Therefore, you should keep the beards, hair, and mustaches brushed, trimmed, and clean. Doing so prevents the parasite problem and makes the patient comfortable.
Apart from staying healthy, these hygienic measures will help the patient keep their morale. Besides, good grooming and hygiene make the patients feel good about themselves. As a close family member, seeing your loved one in good spirits will motivate you to continue caring for them. You will also have hope for better days in the future.
Reduce Side Effects of Treatment
Another way you can keep your loved one comfortable is by controlling the effects of treatment. Mesothelioma treatment can have severe effects on the patient, making them uncomfortable. Finding a way to control these effects goes a long way in making a mesothelioma patient comfortable. Therefore, you should inform the oncologist of any new side effects of treatment and ways you can control them. You should also update them on the patient’s progress and how they are coping with treatment.
Thankfully, there are several therapies and medications designed to manage the side effects of mesothelioma treatment. Applying these therapies is vital for the patient’s comfort. Therefore, they should be addressed as soon as possible. It is essential to know that there are different types of mesothelioma treatment. Patients take different times to recover from these treatments. For instance, mesothelioma patients subjected to surgery will take longer to recover — about four to six weeks.
There are different side effects of surgery. For instance, the patient might feel fatigued, have muscle weakness, and have general discomfort in most body parts. Similarly, chemotherapy has varying side effects on patients. It mostly causes fatigue and, in some cases, vomiting and nausea. Thankfully, there are medications designed to manage these side effects. If your loved one is having a difficult time managing these effects, there are anti-nausea medicines designed to prevent and treat chemo-related nausea. The medication also prevents vomiting and fatigue. Besides, there are many other natural remedies for nausea and fatigue caused by chemotherapy. You can talk to the oncologist and find the ideal medication for these side effects. Fatigue due to treatment side effects can cause discomfort to your loved one. Therefore, you should find reliable ways to manage these effects.
Once you can do this, ensure the patient manages their energy throughout the day. You can provide a healthy diet rich in proteins for faster recovery. Eating well will help the patient gain energy and avoid fatigue. Just like surgery and chemotherapy, radiation also causes various side effects. For instance, it might cause skin irritation that feels like sunburn. This might make your loved one uncomfortable. Luckily, there are several things you can do to change that. For instance, you can use ointments like aloe vera to reduce the effects. This goes a long way in making the patient comfortable.
Also known as pressure sores, bedsores are injuries to underlying tissues and the skin due to lying or sitting in a single position for too long. When a patient sits or lays in the same position for too long, they put pressure on specific body parts like the buttocks, things, and legs. This pressure can break down the skin and make it disjointed. Such cases make the patient very uncomfortable. This is the case because bedsores are extremely painful — they can make the patient not move or get out of bed. In the worst-case scenario, bedsores can get infected and cause severe ailments. Such complications can shorten the life of your loved one. Thankfully, there are many ways you can prevent bedsores. Here are some of the most effective ways you can prevent them.
- Reposition the Patient
If the mesothelioma patient spends most of the time in bed, you should reposition them regularly. Avoid keeping the patient in the same position for long because it increases the chances of bedsores. If the patient can move independently, encourage them to do so as regularly as possible. You should also ensure that the bed is comfortable to avoid back pains. Use soft pillows and thick mattresses that don’t have hard spots.
- Know How To Reposition the Patient
In the advanced stages of mesothelioma, the patient’s body becomes very delicate. They might also lack the energy to reposition themselves. Therefore, you should ask the doctor or nurse how to reposition your loved one without causing injury. You shouldn’t use too much force because the patient is weak and vulnerable. In cold conditions, avoid touching the patient with wet hands when repositioning them. Doing so could make them uncomfortable and increase pain. If you doubt your ability to reposition the patient, get the help of a nurse or doctor.
- Remain Proactive
As long as the patient is still bedridden, you should remain vigilant because there is a risk of bedsores. Always check common areas where bedsores are likely to occur. If you notice early signs of bedsores, get them treated right away. Some of the common areas for bedsores include hips, ankles, heels, and tailbone. If possible, you should get new beddings if you notice signs of bedsores.
Focus on Pulmonary Care
Mesothelioma mostly affects the lungs and makes it difficult for them to function. This makes lung health an area of concern for mesothelioma patients. Caregivers should, therefore, focus on pulmonary care and help the patient manage the symptoms. As the condition progresses, pulmonary symptoms will worsen or change drastically. Some symptoms like breathlessness, difficulty breathing, pain, and coughing are common and can be treated. Anytime you notice your loved one exhibiting these symptoms, you should seek medical attention. Talk to the doctor and find efficient medications to manage these symptoms. Besides, there are several pulmonologist therapies that help keep the patient comfortable. Applying such therapies will get rid of pulmonary symptoms and help the patient relax. There are also medications that open up the patient’s airways and enhance breathing. Your loved one can use these medications to open up their breathing system and breath comfortably.
There are also medications designed to manage the pain caused by tumors pressing against the chest wall and hindering air passage. If your loved one is showing these symptoms, you can work with pulmonary therapists to help improve lung function. Therapists can teach effective breathing techniques and exercises that the patient can use to overcome discomfort. Such exercises go a long way in improving lung function. If you can’t find a pulmonary therapist, talk to your oncologist about a referral. Ensure you work with an experienced therapist because every mesothelioma patient has unique pulmonary problems. As you already know, the standard care for mesothelioma involves radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Surgery is only viable for patients who are diagnosed early enough, and that is not often the case. This means that chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the two most common mesothelioma treatment methods. The uncertainty in an accurate treatment method has made many mesothelioma patients participate in clinical trials. These trials involve using new drugs and innovative treatments to eliminate mesothelioma. Thanks to technological advancements, new immunotherapy drugs are being used to fight mesothelioma. The drugs help prolong the life of a patient by controlling or shrinking tumors and reducing the effects of mesothelioma treatment. This means that when a patient uses these medications, they won’t feel the severe effects of radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Ensure Good Nutrition
No matter the condition, good nutrition is vital for any patient. Eating a healthy diet is particularly crucial for patients or those recovering from treatment. To ensure that your loved one is comfortable, a healthy diet should be part of the plan. Therefore, you should speak to the nurse, doctor, or cancer dietitian to see the types of food the patient needs. Of course, the patient might already be taking nutritional supplements that help them regain energy and overcome mesothelioma symptoms.
There are many ways you can provide good nutrition to your loved one. Here are some of them.
- A Balanced Diet Is Essential
A mesothelioma patient needs a well-balanced diet for a swift recovery. Try to provide a healthy diet that contains all crucial nutrients. You should also keep track of calories and nutrients to ensure the patient is healthy. Avoid feeding them foods just for the sake of it. Instead, get nutritious foods recommended by doctors or nurses.
- Heed To the Patient’s Needs
It is beneficial to cater to your loved one’s physiology. Most mesothelioma patients prefer eating in small snack sessions throughout the day. This is preferred over having large meals at specified times. As a caregiver, you should talk to the patient and know what they would like to eat. Sometimes, it is helpful to give the patient their favorite food, especially if they are having appetite problems. Don’t force them to eat foods they are not comfortable with.
- Drinks Are Vital
A mesothelioma patient needs to drink as much water as possible. Therefore, you should keep water and other healthy drinks on hand. Ensure they sip them throughout the day to keep their bodies hydrated. If the patient is strong enough to exercise, water should be a major part of their diet. Keeping the body hydrated helps control the side effects of mesothelioma and its treatment. However, patients shouldn’t use unhealthy drinks that can worsen their condition. For instance, alcoholic drinks and beverages are prohibited for mesothelioma patients. Using such drinks can significantly affect the patient’s condition.
- Monitor their Progress
You should also monitor your loved one’s progress. Keep track of their eating habits and record all the meals they eat. This comes in handy, especially when examining the effects of different foods on the patient. You can also use the records as references when talking to the doctor regarding the patient’s nutritional needs.
- Not all Healthy Foods Are Good
The foods you find healthy might not be ideal for mesothelioma patients. This is why caregivers should know all the healthy foods that might negatively affect the patient. For example, vegetables rich in vitamin K, such as broccoli and spinach, can negatively affect a mesothelioma patient. This is because they counteract the effects of blood thinners like warfarin. Knowing what works for the patient and what doesn’t is essential for their well-being. Caregivers should discuss with doctors to find an ideal diet for mesothelioma patients.
Create a Comfortable Environment For Your Loved One
A mesothelioma diagnosis can have severe consequences on a person’s health. They become weak and lack the strength to do basic activities. As family members, you should do everything you can to make the patient comfortable. Thankfully, there are many ways you can do that. From creating support groups to providing a good diet, creating a comfortable environment is crucial for the patient’s recovery.