November is National Family Caregivers Month

It cannot be overstated how important caregivers can play an important role in helping others maintain their optimal health.

The diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, a rare and serious cancer, affects both the patient and the family and loved ones. As with most diseases, there is often one person who is the primary caregiver. This role is often one that the person has not planned or is not prepared for. The people affected by this disease can be anyone. The caregiver can be a family member, son, daughter, husband, wife, friend, neighbor, relative, or anyone who plays this important role.

There are different types of caregivers, the most common being someone who takes care of a family member without pay. The other types are professional, independent, private, informal, and volunteer caregivers.

Each November, we recognize all of the people who fill this role with National Family Caregivers Month. In the United States, more than 65 million Americans care for their aging or disabled loved ones. Of these, 90% are unpaid nurses.

One in four people at some point in their life cares for family, friends or neighbors who are either physically or mentally ill. Of these, almost a third helps someone with mental illness. Those are just the stats. The statistics do not tell the everyday life of the nurse. They take care of people in need every day. Often the price paid by the caregiver is their own health, mental, physical and social well-being. It is well documented that nurses’ health often suffers from this role.

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To put a face to these statistics, look around you. A few years ago, when I saw a mesothelioma patient return to the clinic with his wife, I was struck by the toll the disease had taken on his wife. The patient looked great, was doing well and had a positive attitude. His wife, his main caregiver, was not doing so well. She had lost weight, looked tired and felt depressed. Being the caretaker had taken a very visible toll on her.

Chances are you know someone, work with someone, or care for someone else. Reach out to the caretaker, help out, be specific and ask if you can help at a specific time on a specific day. If you cannot help physically, listen to the caretaker. Schedule a time to talk to them regularly. The role they play is a challenging and rewarding one that we can facilitate by supporting them. Make your trip less lonely in November and all year round.

There are resources to support caregivers; Resources for Caregivers The National Alliance for Nursing Caring at Home – A Guide to Community Resources Resources for caregivers and their families

Especially for patients with malignant mesothelioma