Mesothelioma: Things to know about end-of-life care

If you're one of many Pittsburgh residents who are currently taking care of a loved one who is terminally ill, you no doubt have days when you feel fatigued, sad or completely overwhelmed. It's important to stay closely connected to others in Pennsylvania or beyond who can relate to your experiences and provide encouragement and support, as needed. The thing about Mesothelioma and other terminal illnesses is that treatment is palliative in nature, meaning it is meant to help keep the patient comfortable but doesn't provide a cure.

That's because there is no cure for Mesothelioma, asbestosis or other cancers related to asbestos exposure. As a caretaker of someone who is dying, it's important to be able to recognize symptoms that suggest the end of life is near. Such days or hours are an intensely personal and intimate time for patients and their families.

Patient may grow weak as disease progresses

When a doctor first diagnosed your family member with asbestos-related cancer, he or she may have still been quite mobile. As time goes on, you can expect mobility to decease significantly, until your loved one is no longer able to move around without assistance. As the end of life draws near, profound weakness may set in, and even moving around in bed might be difficult or impossible without help.

As Mesothelioma advances, eating becomes difficult

While it can be worrisome to witness a significant decline of appetite in your loved one, it's a common sign that end of life is drawing near. Your family member may show less and less interest in food, eventually only taking in small amounts of water or food every few days. It's helpful to stay closely connected to a licensed medical support team, especially if you're caring for your loved one at home.

Signs of confusion or incoherency may set in

Many people describe their terminally ill loved ones as appearing as though they are living in two worlds at the same time as their end of life draws near. One moment, your family member may be able to focus and understand what is happening around him or her, and the next, he or she may seem confused or disconnected from present surroundings.

More time asleep than awake

Another common sign that a terminal illness is in its final stages is that a patient may spend more hours in a day sleeping than being awake. Especially if your loved one is receiving strong pain medications, such as morphine, it's likely that he or she may be unconscious a lot of the time.

Things to keep in mind as a caregiver

It's an emotionally trying experience to take care of a loved one who has Mesothelioma or another terminal illness. It's important for you to stay as healthy as possible, which means you'll want to reach out for additional support as needed.

Before the end of life draws near, your loved one may be able to share his or her thoughts. If he or she is of sound mind, you can help him or her execute an estate plan if that hasn't happened already. Many terminally ill patients simply want someone to listen while they share memories of their lives. As a caregiver, you can provide as much love and support as possible.

A word about asbestos-related illnesses

In Pennsylvania and elsewhere, many terminal illness cases lead to litigation. This is because asbestos exposure is often preventable, and many people who contract terminal diseases had exposure to asbestos because their employers were negligent in keeping them informed or providing proper training or safety equipment.

If you wish to discuss such issues, it's best to do so with someone who is well-versed in state laws regarding such matters and who understands the process of filing a civil justice claim in court.

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