Crisis Communication Best Practices for Mesothelioma Caregivers

Melanie Ball on her dad's shoulders

Life moves pretty fast these days, especially for members of the mesothelioma community.

While attending appointments, exploring treatment options, running errands and providing care for a loved one facing mesothelioma, caregivers may find it difficult to keep family members informed.

For larger families, communicating is even more complicated. Keeping my family informed during my father’s battle with mesothelioma was tedious at times.

Most families have a desire to keep in touch and have genuine concerns for their loved one facing cancer.

Cancer patients may not feel up to making phone calls or regularly sending messages to update family members. Caregivers may not have the time to communicate with friends and loved ones.

Poor communication among family members can cause anxiety and unnecessary stress for families dealing with cancer.

Implementing an efficient communication strategy may help families overcome the challenges of keeping others informed. With a little planning and coordination, family caregivers can break down barriers that hinder adequate communication.

Keeping everyone up to date regarding their loved one’s health, physical and emotional needs and necessary support is more conducive to creating a healing environment.

Typical Barriers to Good Communication

When families deal with cancer, their stress levels rise.

People under pressure must exhibit additional effort to manage emotions.

Adequate communication is a task that may be more difficult during times of heightened stress. Further complicating communication is the emotional intensity of information being shared and the sense of urgency of relaying updates to intended recipients.

My family seemed to run into several roadblocks while trying to keep loved ones updated regarding my father’s health.

Some common communication barriers my family encountered include:

  • Time Constraints: Patients may not feel up to spending time telling family members and friends about their current health situation. There were times my father didn’t want to talk about his cancer. Caregivers may not have time to maintain lines of communication either. Mom would commonly tell people she didn’t have time to talk while she cared for Dad.
  • Misinformation: I recall several instances in which messages between my family members transformed into “gobbledygook.” We didn’t purposefully misinform each other, but sometimes our information got mixed up. Once we were confused, it was nearly impossible to set the record straight.
  • Misunderstanding: When doctors diagnosed my father with mesothelioma, none of us had heard the term before. We weren’t familiar with treatment options or what implications treatment might have for Dad’s quality of life. Maintaining accuracy in medical updates is difficult if the communicator or recipients don’t understand the information presented.

Clearing the Confusion

Through our family’s experiences with finding time to communicate, misunderstanding messages and misinterpreting information, we learned a few things about keeping everyone up to date about Dad’s health.

Families may benefit from designating one person to keep others informed.

Taking a group approach to communicating can help get everyone on the same page quickly.

Having a previously delegated chain of information can alleviate some of the stress of relaying updates as well.

Social media may also break down communication barriers such as time constraints and distance.

  • The Designated Communicator: Patients and caregivers may determine one family member is best suited for getting the word out. Some people have the gift of gab, and what better time to use this skill? This is a perfect job for a loved one who doesn’t live locally, but still wants to help. It is the appointed communicator’s duty to call, message or email others, keeping them informed of their loved one’s health, family events or other important updates.
  • The Group Approach: There are many ways to communicate with groups of people at the same time. Through modern technology, people can use group chat, conference calls, group messaging or simply speaker phone in a room full of loved ones. The group approach to communication allows for groups of family members to hear an update simultaneously, saving caregivers precious time and energy.
  • Chain Communication: The term chain refers to a system of loved ones who each take responsibility for notifying one person in the family of an update. That person will relay a message and send it to another family member in the chain. This decreases the time and effort of telling the update multiple times.
  • Social Media: Modern technological advances such as the rise of the internet makes keeping in touch with friends and family members faster and easier. Social applications such as Facebook break down distance barriers to communication. It is important to remember a patient’s personal preferences when posting updates or engaging in group messages. A patient may not want their health information discussed in a public forum.

Despite all of the resources available for families, mesothelioma caregivers gain expertise through hands-on experience.

Through my family’s challenges of keeping loved ones informed, we learned it is much easier to allow others to help with relaying messages.

We came to realize it is easier to report to a group one time, rather than repeating the same update to each family member.

Social media wasn’t available back in the 1990s when my father faced mesothelioma, but my family could have benefited from such a valuable communication resource.

Sometimes, the unknown elements of dealing with cancer are more anxiety-provoking than the anticipated challenges that accompany a diagnosis.

Excellent communication among friends and family chip away at the unknown one conversation at a time.

Keeping loved ones informed eases worries and focuses everyone’s attention toward the next goal.

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Melanie Melanie Ball, Contributing Writer to Asbestos.com

Writer

Melanie has a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from the University of the Cumberlands and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Phoenix. She maintains a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPCA) licensure to serve families in southeastern Kentucky and is pursuing full licensure as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and a Registered Play Therapist (RPT).

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