Picking Your Support Team

Health Care Support Team

Serious illnesses like asbestos-related diseases create many needs and concerns. One of the biggest needs is this: picking teammates to stand by you.

Find your advocates. Find your helpers.

An advocate is anyone who fights for or serves another person’s interests.  In this case, those interests can be complex (medical care and financial affairs) and they can be mundane (cooking healthy meals, managing stress, making a home comfortable and accessible).  There are plenty of jobs to fill.

You will want more than one advocate because each advocate can serve a different need.

My mom was her own best advocate.  This was never more apparent than when she was diagnosed with stomach cancer.  Soon after her diagnosis, she chose her own team of advocates.

My sisters and other relatives had nursing backgrounds, so they gave her advice on making her home more comfortable and communicating with her medical team.  I am a lawyer and worked on financial matters for many years, so I helped with her legal and business affairs.  My dad did some of everything, including driving her to and from medical appointments.  My mom’s spiritual life was very important to her, so friends and neighbors visited to pray and read scriptures when she was too sick to go to church.

Here are some common types of advocates for people with asbestos-related diseases:

  • Health Care Providers: Finding doctors and other health-care professionals you trust will likely be one of the first things you do following a diagnosis.  Few doctors have experience treating asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.  The free resources available Asbestos.com can help you locate a specialist.
  • Loved Ones: You may not think of family members and other loved ones as team members.  In reality, they're the most important players.  You will depend on them to help you make decisions and take care of you as your illness and treatments progress.
  • Legal Advocates: Yes, lawyers.  They're also advocates.  Their work can have a big impact on the quality of your medical care and your family's quality of life.  Because you will likely be unable to work while you are ill, it can become difficult for your family to pay everyday living expenses and medical bills.  That's where your attorney can help you.  In addition to their knowledge of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma, lawyers also have contacts and resources that can help you deal with a number of other legal issues that may come up because of your illness.

Take your time, and pick good advocates.  My mother always knew how to get things done and was often the "go-to" person in our family and community.  She taught me that a good advocate:

  • Communicates clearly with the person she is helping;
  • Takes time to observe and understand the needs of the person she is helping; and
  • Knows when and whom to ask for help.

Although you may share some of my mom's needs, you also have your own unique needs.  Whether you are choosing your own advocate or finding support for a loved one, my mom's experience offers some useful tips:

  • Choose the right advocate for each job. My mom asked people to do different things based on their skills and experience.  Since mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are so unique, some of your advocates will need special experience.  Not every doctor can treat these diseases.  Not every lawyer has experience with asbestos lawsuits.  The resources available at Asbestos.com can help you find advocates who can assist you.
  • No one can do it all. My dad was my mom's primary caregiver for a long time and also worked as a logger to support them, but he couldn't do everything alone.  Eventually, I moved in with my parents for a while to help him care for my mom and their home.  Sometimes your advocates need to shift duties.
  • Let others help. My mom made many wise decisions, but her wisest decision was allowing the people she trusted help her when she needed them most.

Karen Marshall has more than 17 years of legal experience and is an attorney with The Peterson Firm. She has been contributing to The Mesothelioma Center since 2011 and writes about asbestos-related legal issues and blogs for Asbestos.com.

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