The following is a guest blog from asbestos.com, a website dedicated to helping those with Mesothlioma.
Like most cancer patients, mesothelioma patients have both health care and emotional care needs. Just as they wouldn’t ignore physical symptoms, they can’t ignore emotional complications either. Hospice counselors are specially trained to understand the sociological impact of terminal diseases – and help mesothelioma patients cope during this difficult point of their lives.
Hospice Care for the Emotional and Spiritual Needs of Mesothelioma Patients
Depression is one of the most common psychological complications mesothelioma patients may face. The depression may stem from feelings of betrayal from the companies who allowed them to be exposed to asbestos, anxiety about medical costs, or general fears about the future. Patients may also have a hard time adjusting to a lower level of independence as symptoms like pain and difficulty breathing make them rely more heavily on their caregivers.
Thankfully, hospice workers are no strangers to helping patients through depression.
One small study found that 70 percent of hospice patients screened positive for depression at admission into the program. Hospice counselors can help patients work through depressive emotions; they understand how valid the feelings are, but also how important it is not to leave them unchecked. Mesothelioma patients already have plenty of physical symptoms to manage without factoring in the physical manifestations of depression, such as sleeplessness and appetite loss.
To help avoid these complications, counselors can help patients employ health coping mechanisms, such as guided imagery or breathing exercises. Many mesothelioma patients have made great progress with these techniques. If the techniques alone are not enough, counselors can intervene with prescription medications.
Hospice counselors can also help mesothelioma patients work through feelings of isolation. Because mesothelioma is a rare disease (around 3,000 patients are diagnosed each year in the U.S.), patients may feel like nobody understands what they are going through. Empathetic counselors can help reassure patients that they are not alone – and perhaps even connect them with other hospice patients who are also coping with a rare disease. Spiritual counseling can also remind patients that they are not alone, especially if the patient believes in a higher power that is ever by their side.
When mesothelioma patients are admitted to hospice, they typically have a prognosis of six months or less. It is often difficult for patients to adjust to such a shortened life expectancy and ultimately confront their own mortality. This can be particularly confusing, especially if the diagnosis was a surprise (as many mesothelioma diagnoses are). Hospice’s non-denominational clergy members can help patients work through the various spiritual issues that arise at the end of life.
Author bio: Faith Franz has spent nearly two years researching and writing for The Mesothelioma Center. As an advocate for alternative medicine, she encourages patients to explore all of the treatment options that could potentially save their life.
Rao, S., Ferris, F.D., & Irwin, S. A. (2011). Ease of screening for depression and delirium in patients enrolled in inpatient hospice care. Journal of Palliative Medicine; 14 (3). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21247299