Tackling Tough Topics and Giving Yourself Grace as a Caregiver

Cancer & Caregiving

Following our month long discussion about mesothelioma caregiving in November for Family Caregiver Awareness Month, we’re sharing more tips for self-care. As we enter the holiday season, it can be a time of stress for many people, but particularly for those caring for a loved one with mesothelioma.

December is both National Stress Free Holidays and Seasonal Depression Awareness Months. It’s a time when pressures of shopping, hosting or traveling to family events, changes in weather and concerns about cold and flu season all converge. Juggling all of these stressors and caring for a loved one diagnosed with mesothelioma can feel overwhelming.

Prioritizing self-care can be difficult this time of year, but is particularly important for mesothelioma caregivers. Reaching out for support from loved ones, seeking family resources and taking advantage of the expertise and guidance of patient advocates as you navigate your caregiving journey can help.

Give Yourself Credit for Doing Your Best

Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is. It’s important to give yourself grace when you forget to do something or make a mistake because it will happen. 

Providing physical care for your family member is very challenging. It’s also very emotionally challenging. Most people who step up to be a mesothelioma caregiver are working hard to manage these new responsibilities, learning how to be a caregiver and trying to become knowledgeable about mesothelioma. 

The best way to give yourself credit and show gratitude to yourself is to prioritize your self-care regularly. Challenge the thoughts that you’re being selfish if you take a little time for yourself.

Taking on the Difficult Challenge of Advance Directives and Living Wills

Facing the emotionally challenging discussion of advance directives that address your loved one’s future medical care isn’t something most people want to think about, especially during the holidays. But tackling these tough topics can provide peace of mind in knowing that plans are underway. 

Taking time to make sure documents are in order can be valuable if you need to step in and manage legal, medical or financial matters for your loved one with mesothelioma. There are several documents a patient can complete to provide care direction, legally enabling a loved one to make medical decisions for them when they’re not able to do so.

Arrangements to Consider
  • Healthcare surrogate: Designate someone (e.g. a friend or relative) to make medical decisions if the patient is unable to make decisions and give consent for care.
  • Living will: Outline what kind of care the patient wants (or doesn’t want) should they have end-stage disease.
  • Power of attorney: Grant a caregiver access to financial accounts and legal authority to handle certain financial obligations such as paying bills.

An attorney can help with drafting these documents. Some hospital staff such as counselors or chaplains may be able to help patients complete these forms as well. 

A common concern with bringing up the topic of a living will or updating a last will and testament with mesothelioma patients is that it could give a message of hopelessness or pessimism. However, it helps to think of updating a will as a gift to loved ones so they don’t have to guess what you would have wanted to happen. 

Most mesothelioma survivors do welcome discussing these issues, receiving assistance with taking care of some of these tasks and knowing they’ve helped alleviate some of the burden on their caregiver. It can be empowering for both survivors and caregivers having these documents in order.

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