How to Support a Senior with Mesothelioma

How to Support a Senior with Mesothelioma

Caring for someone with cancer requires a lot of support. This is especially true for people facing a terminal cancer for which there is no cure.

Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Known for its aggressive growth pattern, mesothelioma rarely responds well to treatment. Few people see life expectancies that are longer than one year after diagnosis.

If your loved one was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, you are likely coping with fearful thoughts about how they’re going to feel. You may also doubt whether you’ll be able to provide the kind of care they’ll need.

These are normal concerns. Talk about them with family and friends to help you process the fear. If figuring out logistics of care feels overwhelming, ask for help constructing a caregiving plan.

It helps to have an understanding of the kind of care required by a senior with mesothelioma. Consider the following tips when devising a plan for care.

Tips to Care for a Senior with Mesothelioma

Because most cases of mesothelioma cancer develop in the lining around the lungs, pulmonary health is a major component of mesothelioma care.

Don’t ignore changes to breathing, coughing or chest pain. Worsening of these symptoms indicates it’s time for a checkup.

Focus on making improvements to quality of life. For example, if pain increases and the patient’s medication isn’t helping anymore, call your doctor to request a new, more effective pain-relieving prescription.

  • Pay attention to overall health and keep your doctor informed of any changes.
  • Consider working with a pulmonary therapist to learn helpful breathing techniques.
  • Eat plenty of protein and consume enough calories. Limit sugar and processed foods and consume lots of protein, healthy fats and vegetables.
  • Find ways to stay active, even if that simply means walking around the house and lifting light weights.
  • Nurture emotional health by joining a cancer support group. Consider spiritual health as well, which could entail attending church service or spending time in nature.

Building a Support Team

A primary caregiver needs support from others to care for their loved one. The amount of care required by someone with mesothelioma can’t be fulfilled by one person alone.

Primary caregivers are most often spouses or children of the patient with mesothelioma. Their first circle of support will come from family and friends. Reaching out to neighbors, as well as church and community members, may help you find other people who are able to assist.

Professional nursing and caregiving services are an option when care becomes more medically intensive. For example, some people with mesothelioma have a catheter in place that drains fluid from around their lungs, which requires visits from a licensed nurse to drain the fluid. Sometimes, help from a medical professional is just what the primary caregiver needs to enjoy a break.

Any family facing cancer can benefit from extra caregiving assistance. When there are plenty of people available to support the person with mesothelioma, it provides a sense of comfort and gives primary caregivers time for themselves. It is essential for caregivers to get a break and relish time for self-care; otherwise they run the risk of burnout.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t make you weak or imply that you’re incapable of caring for your loved one. It means you care enough about yourself and your loved one to ensure they receive the best care possible.

How to choose the best assisted living facility

How to choose the best assisted living facility

The most important thing you can do is plan ahead

If you have concerns about the ability of an aging parent or relative to live independently, you may want to investigate assisted living—and sooner rather than later. “The best time to look is six months to a year before your parent will need to make the move,” says Paula Carder, an assistant professor at the Institute on Aging at Portland State University in Oregon, and co-author of “Inside Assisted Living: The Search for Home” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). If you wait until your parent is being discharged from a hospital or rehab center, you’ll have fewer choices. And, as an investigation we conducted a few years ago clearly showed, finding a good, safe, and affordable facility can be problematic due to states hodgepodge system of licensing, inspection, and staff training standards of varying strictness.

Assisted-living facilities are residential units that sometimes include a kitchen, housekeeping, meals, transportation to doctors and activities, and various levels of personal assistance. Fees can run $5,000 a month or more, depending on the size of the unit and the care that’s needed. The average length of stay is about 22 months.

More than 900,000 Americans now live in about 39,500 assisted-living facilities, according to estimates, but there is no federal oversight of the industry. Each state sets its own definition of assisted living and decides what licensing procedures and inspections are required. One result is that there are more than 26 designations used to refer to what is commonly known as assisted living, including “residential care,” “board and care,” “adult home,” and “retirement residence.”

The following game plan will help you find the best facility for an aging relative.

Is assisted living appropriate?

Your first step is to make an honest appraisal of whether your relative can continue to live at home. If he or she needs only a minimum of help and dislikes the idea of moving, home care might be a better choice. But for gregarious people who are beginning to experience a decline in function, assisted living might be a good option.

For help assessing your relative’s physical, mental, and financial situation, consider consulting a geriatric-care manager, who should be knowledgeable about the assisted-living options in your area, including the facilities’ financial strength. You can search for one on the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers website, at www.caremanager.org. “You can also get recommendations from family doctors or local senior centers,” says Molly Shomer, an elder-care adviser who runs the ElderCareTeam.com website.

Several websites provide information on nearby facilities. “I like SnapforSeniors senior housing locator,” says Kathleen Cameron, former chairwoman of the Consumer Consortium on Assisted Living (CCAL), a nonprofit advocacy group. “It seems to be the most comprehensive, and it has some good information on long-term-care and funding options, too.” Shomer recommends NewLifeStyles.com. “You aren’t required to enter personal information on the site, and it doesn’t make referrals, which prevents lots of annoying phone calls later,” she says.

Once you have a list of facilities, make an appointment to visit them with your parent or relative. You can find a checklist of things to look for and questions to ask on the CCAL website.

Your first tour will probably be led by the director of marketing. You will see the common areas and available apartments. Notice if the facility’s décor suits your parent’s taste, but don’t let that be the deciding factor. “Nice chandeliers and fancy furniture don’t provide good care,” Shomer says. Of course, the place should be clean and well lit. Look for safety features like grab bars on all the walls, including the hallways, and nonslip flooring materials, especially in the bathrooms. Try to have a meal while you’re there to check out the food.

Watch for red flags

Observe the interaction between staff members and residents. Is it cheerful and respectful? Do staff members seem genuinely interested in the residents? If you see few residents in the common areas or participating in activities, it might signal that the facility is not full, which could bode ill for its financial stability.

Get a copy of the admissions contract and the residence rules. If you sense reluctance by administrators to part with such information at this early stage, consider it a red flag. The facility’s contract outlines fees, services provided, and residents’ rights, and explains who will handle medications, when reassessments of a resident’s condition take place, and when a resident might be asked to leave because he or she needs more services than the facility provides.

The contract should also specify whether a resident is allowed to return to the same unit after a hospital stay. Nursing homes are required to hold a room for Medicaid patients, but many assisted-living facilities are not. Make sure that yours will.

Return unannounced several times to your top two or three choices. Visit at different times of day, especially around mealtimes and the early evening to see how they are managed at busy and quiet times.

Ask to speak with the residence administrator. “Even if it means coming back for another appointment, this is important,” Carder says. “He or she is the person who sets the mood and philosophy of the whole place.” When you meet, ask to review the facility’s licensing or certification inspection report. This should be readily available to the general public and will outline any complaints or black marks the residence has received during inspections. Ask how any problems were corrected.

Also ask about who will draw up the care plan for your relative and how much input he or she and the family will have. Find out how the facility will accommodate your relative’s current and future needs. For example, someone with diet-controlled diabetes might eventually need insulin. How will the facility handle that? Find out how many employees are assigned to each resident. And look for a facility that has a licensed nurse on duty or on call at all times. Ask about the staff’s training in such areas as safety, emergency care, first aid, mental health, residents’ rights, and medication administration.

Add up the costs carefully

When you’ve narrowed the field to one, review the fees. Note the costs for any extra services your relative will need, policies regarding the return of a deposit or down payment, costs involved during hospitalizations, and the possibility of unexpected rate increases. Most costs for assisted living have to be paid out-of-pocket.

The national average monthly base rate for an assisted living unit (which includes room, board, and some personal care) was $3,550 last year, up from $2,379 in 2003, according to a survey by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. Make sure you take into account the possibility of added costs if your relative needs more assistance than the level covered in the base rate. For example, if more help is needed with what are known as instrumental activities of daily living, such as medication management, the average additional fee is $347 a month, according to the MetLife survey.

Contact your state’s long-term-care ombudsman, who acts as an independent resident advocate. He or she will have a record of complaints lodged against a facility and how they were handled. You can find your state’s contact information through the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center, at ltcombudsman.org, or by calling 202-332-2275.

Finally, have the contract reviewed by an attorney before you sign it. You can find one in your area who specializes in elder-care issues on the website of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, at naela.org.

How to get help at home

Home care can be a less costly alternative to assisted living if family members are available to provide or supplement an aging relative’s care.
If you need outside help, expect to pay an average of $29 an hour for a home health aide, $18 an hour for homemaker services, and $59 a day for care in an adult day-care center, according to 2008 data from the Department of Health and Human Services. To find local agencies that can provide such help, use the elder-care locator on the website of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, at n4a.org.
Medicare may cover some part-time and temporary home health care under certain conditions. Medicaid may pay for some home health care depending on the person’s income and needs. For more information, go to www.medicare.gov/coverage/long-term-care.html.

9 Tips to Keep Seniors From Falling This Winter

Seniors-walking-on-icy-drivewayBefore winter hits in earnest across the country, with snow and ice starting to build up on our senior loved ones’ sidewalks, paths and driveways, we want to be sure we’ve taken every precaution to prevent them from slipping and falling.

We know that many seniors – far too many – will be laid up for some time or even hospitalized this winter following a slip and fall during or after inclement weather.

Many elders will suffer a bone fracture of one kind or another, especially hips, ankles, shoulders and wrist fractures. For many of our senior loved ones, these fractures can unfortunately be life changing.

Winter Tips to Keep Loved Ones Safe

  1. Be sure your senior loved one wears the correct footwear, wearing shoes and boots that are not worn out and still provide good traction on the heels and soles and also include special anti-skid materials to prevent slips and falls.
  2. Keep the sidewalks and driveways clear of ice; have someone (hopefully NOT an at-risk senior) blow or shovel the snow away as needed, apply de-icing material such as salt to reduce the ice buildup on walkways.
  3. Be sure the steps leading up to the house are in good repair and are not weak or wobbly as they will be even more difficult to navigate safely when there may be snow, water and ice buildup.
  4. Caution your senior loved one to take his or her time when moving from one location to another and to step carefully when they can’t tell if the path is clear and have your senior walk with someone to help keep him upright.
  5. Be sure all walkways have a steady handrail that can be used to help your senior keep her balance.
  6. Remind your loved ones to eat foods or take supplements in adequate amounts that will keep their bones strong to prevent breaks if they do fall. These supplements may include those such as calcium, vitamin D and dairy products — or whatever their doctors recommend.
  7. Have your senior loved one stay active all year to maintain the muscles that will help move freely and maintain balance on all walking surfaces, especially ice.
  8. Be sure they know not to be afraid to ask for help if needed.
  9. Prepare your senior for an emergency if he or she does fall.  Who will she call, how will she get to a phone, who will check on him daily to be sure he is safe?  Is it time for an alert system that can assist in an emergency? Consider implementing planned check in times when the weather creates extra risks.

Prevention takes a little planning and possibly some acceptance that the risk IS higher. You may not be able to keep your senior loved from falling this winter, but when you follow these tips you may be able to prevent a serious injury from occurring or provide help before a simple fall becomes something more serious in the cold.

Do you have more tips to prevent falls on the ice this winter you can share with us?  We would love to hear from you.