Emergency Planning for Mesothelioma Caregivers
- Cancer & Caregiving
- Dec. 7, 2017
A few years ago, a significant snowfall left my family without power and with a limited supply of food.
My husband was without his diabetes medication for several days.
Some people might welcome the serenity of a beautiful blanket of fresh snow, but a caregiver without access to a patient’s medications might have a different perception of such a weather event.
During the storm, our roads were impassible, hindering access to my husband’s medicine.
After spending a few days without the diabetic supplies he needed, we decided to plan for the next time we found ourselves in a weather-related situation.
Mesothelioma patients may have immediate needs, especially during emergencies. Weather events and natural disasters can be unavoidable, but planning ahead reduces vulnerabilities in such conditions.
Take a Patient’s Individual Needs into Consideration
There is no shortage of information about emergency readiness on the internet.
A quick Google search yields hundreds of tips for planning ahead of wildfires, extreme weather and other disasters. The problem some caregivers face is understanding how to prepare for the specific needs of a patient.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) offers emergency planning tips for cancer patients and their families. Caregivers may find it useful to incorporate some of these suggestions into their emergency care plans.
It is imperative to take a mesothelioma patient’s individual needs into consideration when planning for emergency situations.
According to NCI, emergency planning for cancer patients and their families should focus on the patient’s well-being.
People undergoing chemotherapy and other cancer treatments may have a compromised immune system, making them even more vulnerable during disaster situations.
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Having a plan and access to medical information is essential for emergency accommodations for cancer patients.
The NCI suggests patients and caregivers discuss ways to access medical information in the event of an emergency. Many doctors offer online portals, or databases, which give patients access to their medical data from anywhere.
Despite having electronic access to medical information, the NCI still suggests having a paper copy of crucial information.
Some hard copy documents the NCI suggests keeping include:
- Oncologist Information: It is beneficial to have the address and phone number of the treating oncologist. In disaster situations, patients may have to see a different doctor who might need to consult with the patient’s regular oncologist.
- Specific Diagnosis: A disaster might limit or prevent communication between health care providers. If an emergency physician cannot access a patient’s medical information, knowing a specific diagnosis is a practical starting point.
- Current Medications and Cancer Treatments: Patients and caregivers may find it difficult to recall each medication and the specifics regarding chemotherapy or radiation treatments. If electronic access isn’t possible, it is vital to have a hard copy handy for emergency professionals.
- Clinical Trial Information: It is useful to carry a paper copy of information regarding participation in clinical trials. Emergency doctors may need the clinical trial number, the location of treatment administration, types of treatment administered, and contact information for the principal investigator.
Cancer patients have oncology-related needs caregivers must consider when planning for crisis situations. However, a loved one’s medical needs are just one element of a system of primary needs caregivers should address when creating an emergency plan.
Building an Emergency Care Kit
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security developed the website Ready.gov to help families plan ahead for crisis situations. They suggest creating a kit of basic supplies to use during an emergency event.
Whether planning for a natural disaster or just a power outage, caregivers should think ahead to keep their loved one as comfortable as possible.
Creating an emergency kit is an easy way to organize enough supplies to sustain your family for a couple of days.
Some suggested items to include in your kit:
- Water: It is essential to include enough drinking water for each person in your family. A person will need one gallon per day and enough water for three days.
- Food: Be sure to stock three days’ worth of non-perishable food items such as canned goods as well as other foods that have a water-tight seal. It is also useful to include a can opener and eating utensils.
- Radio: A battery-operated communication device is important to keep informed about the current situation and future instructions. It is also a good idea to include extra batteries.
- Cell Phone: Disaster events sometimes hinder communication. Having a cell phone, chargers and backup batteries can help keep families and loved ones connected during difficult times.
- Flashlight: Having a flashlight is very handy during power outages. It is a good idea to stock extra batteries, too. Depending on the type of event, restoring electricity can be a long and challenging task.
- First-Aid Kit: Even a simple first-aid kit can make a huge difference in emergency situations. Talk to your doctor about specific items you should include for you and your loved ones.
Preparing for emergency situations requires a personalized assessment of a family’s specific needs.
In my family’s kit, I included items necessary to meet our needs for several days. I added glucose tablets and peanut butter to help stabilize my husband’s glucose levels. I also included a few coloring books and a deck of cards to occupy our children.
Mesothelioma caregivers might add a few thoughtful items to ease patients through a difficult time. Some might find it helpful to include lip balm, calming essential oils or lotions. Little things have the potential to provide significant comfort during crisis events.
Emergency preparedness presents an opportunity for caregivers to think ahead. Life happens in real time, and emergency events seem to occur at the most inopportune times.
Planning can make an emergency less impactful on any family.
Melanie is currently pursuing a Master's degree at the University of the Cumberlands. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Phoenix. Her father was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1992. She is dedicated to writing about her unique experience with the rare disease.
- Department of Homeland Security. (n.d.). Build A Kit. Retrieved from https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit
- National Cancer Institute. (2017, October 4). Emergency Resources for the Cancer Community. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/contact/emergency-preparedness