Mesothelioma is most often diagnosed in patients over 60 years of age. The disease’s poor prognosis stems in part from the fact that its symptoms usually don’t appear until many decades after a person has ingested asbestos fibers. As a result, by the time some patients are diagnosed, the cancer can be very advanced. This means that they may not qualify for, or benefit from, aggressive surgery or other radical therapies. If a mesothelioma patient is terminally ill, they may require palliative care.
Even if a patient has a poor prognosis, this doesn’t mean they can’t improve their quality of life. Mesothelioma doesn’t need to take away a patient’s comfort or get what they need, even if their life expectancy is short. Hospice care can provide the right conditions for a terminally ill patient to live the rest of their life without pain, and while receiving the compassionate care they have a right to.
What is Hospice Care for Mesothelioma Patients?
When a mesothelioma patient has stopped responding to standard treatments, hospice care can be a vital next step. For these patients, surgery and chemotherapy would only create risk and discomfort—remission is not feasible. Hospices provide end-of-life care for the patient with the aim to maximize their quality of life and minimize distress. Some of the things hospice care will provide include pain management (palliative treatment), counseling for patients and family, and daily compassionate care. A hospice nurse will monitor symptoms and act quickly to provide relief and ensure patients experience as little discomfort as possible during their care.
The way hospices provide pain management will depend partially on the type of mesothelioma a patient has. For individuals with pleural mesothelioma, symptom management will often focus on making breathing easier. Because the lungs are affected by this form of cancer, shortness of breathing difficulties are an unfortunate common symptom as patients near the end of their life. The trained hospice caregivers can utilize functional body positioning methods to help a patient breathe more comfortably.
For peritoneal mesothelioma patients, digestion issues can arise due to their affected abdomens. Hospice staff can help a patient get the nutrients they need through personalized nutrition plans and custom meals. They will also ensure that peritoneal mesothelioma patients are receiving enough fluids to stay hydrated and help them mitigate digestion-related pain. Getting enough nutritious food will boost patients’ energy levels and enhance their quality of life.
Overall, hospices provide a peaceful, compassionate atmosphere of kindness and understanding. Daily stressors are no longer a concern to the patient, as the staff takes care of everything. The care staff is made up of respectful and good listeners who do their best to fulfill the patients’ individual needs and wishes. They can offer emotional support and help mesothelioma patients live the remainder of their lives with dignity.
Types of Hospice Care for Mesothelioma Patients
Hospice care comes in different forms. What’s best for you or your family member depends on the amount of assistance needed and what you can provide yourself. Hospice home care is one option in which a nurse comes to the patient’s home several days a week to administer treatment for pain relief.
Hospice homecare is a good option for patients whose families can take care of the other aspects of palliative care. With continuous homecare, support can be provided every day for a few hours or 24/7, depending on the requirements of the patient. With inpatient care, the patient stays in a dedicated care facility so that staff can provide support at all times.
Selecting the Right Care Facility
While all hospices aim to provide a high level of quality care for patients, it’s still important to do your homework before selecting any care facility. Because the facility will be responsible for the quality of life and pain management of your loved one, choosing the right facility is essential. A good way to select your hospice care is to go through your hospital or cancer center. You can be confident in the recommendations and contacts provided by these institutions.
If you’d prefer to look for hospice care on your own, you can also do your research online. The Hospice Foundation of America has a directory of state hospice associations with their contact information. You can also use Medicare.gov’s Hospice Compare tool to discover hospices serving your region and make comparisons based on their quality of care.
The Hospice Compare reports data on key indicators of quality, such as how often patients are checked on for pain or the amount of input they are given on their own treatment. Remember that even when there are no differences in quality, there may be differences in their care approaches and methodologies, and what best suits one patient may not be ideal for another. Select a hospice that encompasses the same values and priorities as you or your loved one.
To have the clearest understanding of the type of care provided, it’s important to ask the hospice questions. You may want to inquire about the following:
- What type of insurance they accept
- How long the hospice has been serving the community
- What the patient to nurse ratio is
- What after-hour care is provided
- What the emergency management procedures are
- How pain is managed
- How communication with family members is managed
- What counseling options are available
Medicare.gov offers a comprehensive checklist for assessing hospices while you are contacting potential care facilities.
Emotions and Hospice Care
It is unfortunate when patients and their friends and family have to learn that treatment is not working. You may feel angry or in denial. When a doctor recommends palliative care, it’s common for the loved ones of patients to feel like they are giving up. However, this isn’t true. The sad reality of mesothelioma right now is that many patients will not reach remission and will die from the disease. And while doctors are dedicated to changing this over time, it is not possible for every patient to improve their prognosis.
Rather than having these patients undergo aggressive treatment, the priority is ensuring they can live the rest of their life in as pleasant and comfortable a manner as possible. This is not giving up—it’s allowing the patient to be the best version of themselves and live their last days with ease. This way, patients can manage pain and be comfortable while spending time with loved ones. They can communicate their end-of-life wishes and benefit from a supportive atmosphere of people familiar with cancer care.
Once you’ve opted for hospice care, there can still be many emotions involved. Grief, anger, and confusion are commonly experienced both by terminally ill patients and the people in their lives. Hospices can provide counseling to help you cope with the strong mix of emotions that come with this tough time in your life. With the support of the hospice, you and your family can work to make the most of the time the patient has left and create memories to look back fondly on.
Contact Mesothelioma Help Now if you have questions about hospice care for mesothelioma patients. Don’t hesitate to call us with any questions about finding the best care possible for your loved one. You can reach us at 800-584-4151.