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4 Great Tech Gifts for a Mesothelioma Patient

mesothelioma patientGiving the gift of technology to a mesothelioma patient now during the holidays can be a gift that will keep on giving to them for the months to come.

A Digital Photo Frame

Loading up a digital photo frame with pictures of friends, family, special occasions, or places you have visited together is a great gift idea. Your loved one could bring the frame along to treatment visits or for when they need to be hospitalized. These happy reminders of who their supporters are and what they are fighting for can’t help but to improve their spirits! Here’s an article from Consumer Reports that compares popular brands of digital photo frame.

Hand Warmers and Foot Warmers

Sometimes mesothelioma patients just can’t keep their hands and feet warm. A handy solution – hand warmers and foot warmers that you can take anywhere. These are an especially great gift for someone who is undergoing chemotherapy which can make fingers and toes especially susceptible to feeling cold. A company called warmer.com offers many options. One is Grabbers, disposable, portable hand and foot warmers. Break open one of these self-contained packets and they reportedly generate heat for as long as 8 hours.

A Kindle or a Nook

An e-reader, according to the Wikipedia definition, is a handheld electronic device designed for the purpose of reading books and magazines in digital format. Any computer or smart phone that can display text on a screen can act as an e-book reader but specialized e-book readers optimize portability, ease of use, readability, and battery life. A single e-book reader is capable of holding the digital equivalent of hundreds of printed texts with no added bulk. The entry level Kindle by Amazon or Nook from Barnes and Noble are safe bets. Many classic books are free for e-readers. Libraries also offer free access to e-books but as with real library books, they are on temporary loan.

Digital Movie Subscription

What a wonderful thing for a mesothelioma patient who can’t go out or shouldn’t be around crowds! They can watch unlimited movies on a computer or TV screen. TV shows, too. One of the biggest providers of digital movies is Netflix with over 30 million subscribers in the U.S. Other options include an Amazon Prime membership with the bonus of free shipping on Amazon shopping, or Hulu Plus which has a vast assortment of TV shows and exclusive rights to the Criterion Collection of classic and foreign films. You can buy a Netflix subscription gift card or Hulu Plus subscription gift card at stores like Target and WalMart.

Why Every Mesothelioma Patient Needs Two Power of Attorney Documents

mesothelioma patientYou may be a mesothelioma patient but in the eyes of the law you are still an independent adult. And that’s a good thing. But it has its downsides.

What if you are not feeling well – which your medical treatment as a mesothelioma patient makes very likely — and you need a prescription picked up from the pharmacy? Or test results from a lab? Because of well-intended federal rules to protect patient privacy, even your spouse or adult offspring will not be able to get these for you. Unless you have a signed durable power of attorney for health care matters authorizing them to do so.

Or what if you need to have an IRA or savings CD cashed out to help pay for your medical expenses? And you are unable to go to the bank to sign all the papers? Someone you trust can do it for you if you have given them power of attorney for your finances.

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone you choose the power to act on your behalf. In case you become mentally incapacitated, you’ll need what are known as “durable” powers of attorney for medical care and finances. A durable power of attorney simply means that the document stays in effect if you become incapacitated and unable to handle matters on your own.

You need separate durable power of attorney documents for health care and your finances. It is important to keep copies (keep the original in a safe deposit box or with your attorney) of both of these handy because every pharmacy, doctor’s office and financial institution will want a copy on file before they will interact with your designated representative. Every receptionist or hospital technician will want to know whether your spouse or son or daughter is the “P.O.A.” (the abbreviation for “power of attorney”) before they will give them information they need for your care and well-being.

Do not delay on getting these documents in place. Without them, if you become too ill to take care of your health and finances, your family will have to go through expensive and lengthy court proceedings just to be able to take care of you.

Even though you should make separate power of attorney documents for health care and finances, it makes sense to name the same agent under both documents. Just make sure that the person you choose understands the responsibility for your care that they are agreeing to and will be able to be present when needed to act. Your life depends on it.

Crucial Tips for Giving and Receiving Mesothelioma Support

mesothelioma supportIf you or someone you love has recently received a mesothelioma diagnosis, it can leave you feeling like the ground just gave out from underneath you. One moment you’re planning weekend trips and vacations with your friends and family, and the next minute you’re facing the most significant battle of your life.

Regardless of how you learn about the condition, some things are certain: Life after learning about mesothelioma will never be the same again. And while the causes of mesothelioma may be unclear to you at first, the irrevocable impact that this condition can have on your life will only become more apparent as time goes on.

While it’s completely natural to be in shock after learning that the condition has affected you or someone you love, understanding how to communicate your fears, hopes and frustrations to others during cancer treatment can be crucial in obtaining mesothelioma support.

By taking care of yourself and learning how to express your innermost needs, you can help the people around you become a better source of mesothelioma support during the trying times ahead. Consider these helpful tips to learn more about communication throughout cancer treatment.

Communication with your healthcare team
Doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals and other qualified medical staff can offer insight into mesothelioma, but sometimes, it can also seem pretty scary to open up and talk to them about how you’re really feeling, especially when it comes to a new or experimental course of mesothelioma treatment.

If you’re struggling with mesothelioma and you find yourself stumbling to find the right ways to talk to your healthcare provider about your experiences, explore ways of addressing this before your office visit.

Some people may enjoy meditating or taking deep breaths before an appointment, since these methods can help to clear away the cobwebs and allow a person to become more centered and focused before an appointment. These can also be good ways to reduce anxiety and eliminate some of the nervous tension you may be carrying around your back and shoulders as a result of stress.

Talking with family
While it can seem daunting to open up to a team of oncologists that you don’t know, overcoming this hurdle can help you learn more about different treatment options and give you the opportunity to gain more confidence, both in terms of how to manage your condition and the symptoms of it, but also in how you talk about the impact of mesothelioma with your family.

Reactions to a diagnosis and treatment plan can vary from person to person, with some individuals having harder times getting in touch with their true feelings than others.

In a family setting, this can be especially significant, because people may think that bottling up their thoughts and emotions will make the experience of managing the condition less stressful on loved ones.

However, if you begin to shut out your family and friends for mesothelioma support, you may find that they become more upset and less equipped to handle the stress of the condition in everyday life. Communicating openly about how you’re feeling can give loved ones a chance to prepare mentally and emotionally for the impact of mesothelioma over time and give them a better sense of the challenges that you face.

Searching for support groups
Your sense of self-esteem and self-worth can take a pretty bad hit after learning about mesothelioma, and problems like anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts are not uncommon among people who are facing this and other forms of cancer.

While it’s essential that you understand that you’re not burdening your close friends and family by talking about your fears, it’s understandable if you’re having a difficult time opening up to them completely.

Some people prefer to find solace in mesothelioma support groups, since the individuals who meet in these environments have faced – or have a loved one who has endured – mesothelioma.

The sense of community that you can feel by taking part in groups run by the American Cancer Society, Cancer Survivors Network, National Cancer Institute or other organizations may give you the strength to overcome your fears and prevent mesothelioma from taking over your life. But it’s very important that you research these groups fully before participating, since some lawyers may create false non-profit organizations and use them to lure people into signing contracts.

How Depression Impacts Survival Time for Lung Cancer Patients

mesothelioma_treatmentAfter people are diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disease, it is understandable that they would develop depression. This is not a run-of-the-mill case of the blues, but a persistent feeling of despair, hopelessness and inability to enjoy life that can prevent someone from taking part in the world around him or her.

Patients who have lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure are also at risk of depression. If this condition is not addressed effectively, patients may find it difficult to maintain personal relationships or engage in everyday activities.

Additionally, if depression interferes with an individual’s commitment to medical treatment, his or her illness may progress quickly.

At Kazan Law, we want to make sure all of your needs – physical, emotional and mental – are taken care of. When you are undergoing treatment for lung cancer resulting from exposure to asbestos, it is important to be aware of whether or not you have developed depression so you can treat it properly.

What causes depression?
Experts from the National Cancer Institute estimate that 25 percent of cancer patients develop depression. Certain factors can make some individuals more vulnerable than others. These variables can be divided between those that are related to the cancer, and those that are not.

Those that are linked to the disease include:

  • Pain that is not well-controlled.
  • A case of advanced illness.
  • Physical weakness.
  • Certain types of medication.

Factors independent of the disease are:

  • A personal or family history of depression.
  • A weak social support system.
  • Stress caused by other events in life not related to the cancer.

Depression hurts quality of life
One team of scientists from Mexico decided to investigate the effects of depression on individuals who had advanced cases of non-small cell lung cancer. Specifically, they wanted to know how depression and anxiety impacted the prognosis, treatment adherence and health-related quality of life (HRQL).

For their study, the researchers enrolled 82 subjects diagnosed with stage IIIB or stage IV disease. All participants underwent a series of psychiatric health assessments before treatment, then again at the three-month and six-month marks following the initiation of treatment. In order to record treatment adherence, the scientists kept track of how many clinical consultations the patients missed.

Results showed that approximately 33 and 34 percent of subjects had depression and anxiety, respectively. Depression was more likely among females and those who had poor performance status.

Other results showed that subjects who were depressed had a median survival time of 6.8 months, compared to 14 months for those who did not experience depression. Additionally, 58 percent of depressed subjects had poor treatment adherence, while the same was true for only 42 percent of non-depressed patients.

“Depression and anxiety were present in one-third of patients with recently diagnosed NSCLC. Depression and anxiety were associated with decreased HRQL scales, and depression was independently associated with treatment adherence and with poor prognosis,” the researchers wrote in the Annals of Surgical Oncology.

There is help for depression
The Environmental Working Group estimates that lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure claims the lives of 4,800 individuals in the U.S. every year. That figure is expected to increase during the next 10 years or so.

These trends underscore the importance of identifying and treating depression effectively among lung cancer patients.

Experts from the NCI say that if you have a hard time accepting your cancer status after a long time following your diagnosis or lose interest in activities that were once enjoyable, you may have depression. You should immediately discuss these symptoms with your healthcare team.

Once your doctors are aware of your condition, they may recommend counseling or medication. Remember that depression remedies, whether they are prescribed or bought over the counter, can interact with your cancer therapy and should only be used under the supervision of your healthcare team.

Benefits of Journaling for Mesothelioma Patients

person writing in journalIf you’ve recently been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, it is understandable that you may currently be feeling a sense of inner turmoil. For instance, you might be overwhelmed by the uncertainty of your future, your financial situation and your relationships with your loved ones. Of course, it is best not to keep these thoughts bottled up. However, you may find it difficult to sort through these emotions, much less articulate them to another person.

So how do you express yourself? Many health experts maintain that writing can provide a valuable outlet. This is why you may want to think about keeping a journal.

Many patients benefit from journal writing
At first, the idea of keeping a journal for your health may seem strange when you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. You may think, Don’t I have bigger things to worry about than talking about my feelings? Actually, this is exactly why you should talk about your feelings.

A number of experts say that putting your thoughts on paper will help clear your head of troubling and confusing ideas. This is because problem solving usually requires the analytical skills of the left side of your brain, but writing can spur things along by stimulating the creativity that comes from the right side. Once that happens, you may be able to tackle practical and pressing problems more effectively.

Furthermore, expressive writing may actually have both physical and psychological health benefits. One scientific review, published in the journal Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, lists a number of self-reported positive effects in patients who had therapeutic writing exercises. Among them were improved immune system function, better respiratory function, shorter hospital stays and reductions in depressive symptoms. When it came to individuals who had cancer, some of these patients said they experienced pain relief and better physical health.

How do I start?
If you have never kept a journal in your life, you may not know the best approach to take. Fortunately, experts from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) have a few pointers:

  • First, try to decide whether you would be more comfortable with the old-fashioned pen and paper or a computer journal. For the former, use permanent ink as well as paper bound in a notebook or something else that is convenient to carry.
  • Find a quiet place that will allow you to write without interruptions.
  • Try writing about things beyond just what happened in your day. Discuss your feelings regarding your prognosis, fears you may have for the future or something positive that you like to focus on.
  • Don’t censor yourself. This is your journal, so everything is fair game.
  • Don’t get bogged down in correct spelling and punctuation.
  • Feel free to include letters or photographs.
  • Date and number each entry.
  • Figure out whether you want to try writing every day or just when the mood strikes you.

People have been tracking their thoughts and emotions with journals for centuries. However, in the 21st century, there are other avenues for you to express yourself. For example, ASCO pointed out that some cancer patients take to writing an internet blog.

A word of caution
Asbestos-related diseases are often a contentious matter. At Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley, we want to remind you that it is best not to share anything you keep in a paper journal or blog with anyone other than your spouse or attorney. If you are in litigation, you may be compelled to produce anything you’ve shared with others – whether by handing the book to a friend or posting it on any website, regardless of privacy settings – in court.

Massage Therapy for Mesothelioma Patients

massageAfter someone has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, it is understandable that he or she may need outside help in dealing with the distress and pain. Some patients ask for referrals to psychiatric counselors. Others sit down with a member of the clergy. Many turn to their friends and family.

This is, indeed, a stressful time, so pampering yourself with a massage may not be on your list of priorities. However, at Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley, we believe that massage can be a vital component of medical treatment, particularly for people battling cancer.

Therapists helped patients for thousands of years
Experts from the American Cancer Society (ACS) describe massage therapy as a form of complementary medicine that dates back to at least 2700 BC. It has been used in Chinese, Indian, Persian, Greek and Arab traditions.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) lists several types of massage therapy, all of which manipulate the muscles and soft tissues:

  • Swedish massage uses long strokes, kneading, vibration and deep circular movements.
  • Sports massage is similar to Swedish massage, but adapted for the needs of athletics.
  • Trigger point massage focuses on painful muscle knots.

Swedish massage is one of the most common techniques used in the U.S., dating all the way back to the late 1800s. However, it wasn’t until 1992 that massage therapists around the U.S. decided to organize and form the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, allowing them to standardize the necessary training for massage therapy and help consumers identify legitimate and educated practitioners.

How can massage help mesothelioma patients?
Mesothelioma and other types of cancer are associated with physical pain and emotional distress. Massage therapists assert that this form of bodywork may be able to help with both. The ACS notes that studies support the use of massage the alleviate stress, depression, anxiety, fatigue and physical pain. When it comes to that last factor, some practitioners claim that massage can stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers produced by the body. Additionally, those who administer a form of massage known as myotherapy state that the regimen can improve blood circulation and sleep habits while reducing the need for pain medications.

Massage therapy is generally regarded as safe. However, you should never use it to replace standard medicine. If you are interested in massage therapy, you should talk to your physician. He or she will determine if you have a condition, such as bone metastases or low platelet counts, that can preclude the use of massage therapy.

Additionally, the National Cancer Institute notes that therapists administering a massage to patients should avoid open wounds, tumor sites, deep vein thromboses and areas made more tender by radiation therapy.

Pick the right massage therapist
The NCCAM estimated that in 2007, 18 million adults and 700,000 children in the U.S. reported using massage therapy during the previous year. The nation has about 1,500 schools and training programs. As of 2010, 43 states and the District of Columbia had laws that helped regulate this industry.

If you are looking for a reputable massage therapist, try asking for a referral from your healthcare provider first. Once you gather the names of a few candidates, make sure they are properly trained, well-experienced, compliant with state laws and properly credentialed. You also need to discuss the nature of your medical condition, what type of therapy may be the most appropriate, cost and insurance coverage.

Home Care Considerations for Mesothelioma Patients

meso_patientOnce you’ve been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, several important questions may come to mind. Some examples may include the following: What is the best course of treatment? Will I be able to endure certain side effects? How will I pay for medical care? What will I do once the disease reaches its advanced stages?

In regards to that last question, one important factor is where you prefer to live. Would you be more comfortable in a long-term care facility, or would you rather live at home?

If you chose the latter, you may find consulting a home health agency helpful.

What is home care?
Sometimes friends and relatives take it upon themselves to help a sick or disabled individual live at home for as long as possible. They can assist with simple tasks, such as bathing, cooking, cleaning or transportation. However, some jobs, such as administering medications, may require more skill. Furthermore, these tasks may prove to be too much, particularly if a caregiver also holds down a full-time job outside the home.

In these instances, it is a good idea to get help from a home health agency. Experts from the American Cancer Society describe these businesses as providers of a wide range of services, including skilled nursing, medical supplies, companion services, and homemaking to run errands around the household.

Why would mesothelioma patients select home care?
Once mesothelioma becomes advanced, you will have to decide where you want to live while you receive long-term medical care.

There are several reasons why choosing home care may be more desirable than institutional care. The former option would allow you to maintain some level of independence within a comfortable and familiar environment. Furthermore, it would be easier to maintain relationships with your friends and relatives. If any of them decide to take on the role of caregiver, hiring a home health agency would provide them some relief and make sure they don’t wear out.

Financial costs may also be a concern. Data compiled by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC) showed that in 2009, the daily cost of living in a skilled nursing facility was $622. Meanwhile, one visit from a home health visit cost $135.

In 2008, individuals who had diseases of the respiratory system accounted for nearly 9 percent of home health patients in the U.S.

How do I pick the best home care business?
Home care services usually require an order from your doctor or other medical provider. The NAHC’s Home Care/Hospice Agency Locator is a great starting point for finding prospective agencies. Once you have a list of potential businesses, you’ll want to vet them thoroughly. The NAHC has some valuable questions for you to ask:

  • Does this provider supply a Patient Bill of Rights?
  • How does this agency pick and train its employees?
  • Will the provider consult with my family when it comes to formulating a care plan?
  • How are workers prepared to deal with emergencies?
  • Will my confidentiality be protected?
  • How do I pay for services?

Collecting a list of references from an agency is also important. Call each reference, and ask him or her about patient feedback. If one of the references is another health provider, ask about whether they referred patients who also had malignant mesothelioma or other similar disease. That way, you can gauge the agency’s familiarity with cases like yours.

Private health insurance policies may cover home health, but this can differ between different companies. Medicare and Medicaid may also cover some patients, but the laws may differ between different states. Furthermore, sufficient medical documentation may be required.

Caution Can Help Mesothelioma Patients Plan Vacations

older couple on beachNow that a new year has begun, many people may begin making plans. Some individuals will join a gym to support their recent resolutions. Do-it-yourself enthusiasts may have designs for home renovations. Movie fanatics are gearing up for both the Golden Globes and the Oscars. Additionally, some people will start deciding on where to spend their vacations this year.

But how does getting away affect malignant mesothelioma patients? Can they still make these plans to travel? Sure!

At Kazan, McClain, Satterley, Lyons, Greenwood & Oberman, we want to make sure that you can live as functional a life as possible. Travel and vacationing may still be possible, even with mesothelioma. However, it is going to take a lot of careful consideration.

It’s still important to be able to get away
Being diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other type of cancer poses a lot of challenges to patients as well as their loved ones. The symptoms of the disease may feel painful, and the treatments may come with physically taxing side effects, such as fatigue. The distress of this illness may also cause sleepless nights. It is not surprising that depression and anxiety become common issues for both cancer patients and their families.

Sometimes, a healthy distraction will do a world of good.

Mesothelioma patients have to plan carefully
If you’ve got the itch for some traveling, that’s great. But experts from the American Society of Clinical Oncology say that before you make any plans, you should consult your physician to make sure that you are healthy enough to travel. He or she can discuss potential risks, such as sunburns to radiation-treated skin, infection and the need for any vaccinations. In order to avoid fatigue, it may be better to wait a few days after the end of a chemotherapy cycle.

In some cases, cancer patients are okay to travel but are advised to avoid airplanes because of changes in oxygen levels or air pressure, which can be harmful for fresh surgery wounds. If you have been medically cleared for a vacation and are able to travel by air, you need to be aware of the heightened risk of blood clots on airplanes.

It is important to be prepared for medical emergencies. Make sure you have a supply of all the required medications. Also, write down a summary of your medical needs and emergency contacts on a card or piece of paper, and keep it handy with you at all times. If you’re traveling to a foreign country, consider having the information written in multiple languages.

If you are planning your vacation through an agency, be sure to discuss your health situation. They may be able to make smoother decisions for you regarding matters such as diet and travel health insurance.

Special plans for cancer patients
If you want to get away, but are out of ideas, consider going to a cancer camp. There are various retreat centers around the U.S., such as the Kokolulu Cancer Retreat in Hawaii and the Commonweal Cancer Help Program in California, that are specially designed to promote rest and relaxation for individuals living with malignant diseases, as well as their loved ones.

In case you find out that you are not medically able to travel, you can still have a fantastic vacation from the comfort of your own home. Experts from the University of Rochester Medical Center say that staying at home provides an opportunity to learn relaxation techniques, such as rhythmic breathing, mental imagery or hypnosis. You can also take up a new hobby or take a class that teaches arts and crafts

Best Way to Approach New Years Resolutions for Mesothelioma Patients

new-yearsFacing a disease such as malignant mesothelioma means tackling some major changes in life. At Kazan, McClain, Satterley, Lyons, Greenwood & Oberman, we want you to know that just because you have this illness doesn’t mean you have to forget about annual holiday traditions, such as making New Year’s resolutions.

Admittedly, this may be a tricky venture. Most people’s resolutions are related to improving their health: better diet, smoking cessation, weight management, and so on. When you have cancer, such as mesothelioma, such resolutions are wonderful ideas.

The pitfall with resolutions is people’s tendencies to break them. Some individuals are not bothered if they fall into this trap, but others may get down on themselves and feel their self-esteem wear down.

There are several ways to avoid this and look forward to the new year with your head held high.

Self-reflection can do you a world of good
Making promises is the easy part. Keeping them is a whole other story.

Experts from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center point out that keeping a New Year’s resolution requires more than willpower. In fact, it takes some prep work before a resolution is even made.

In order to avoid the emotional fallout of not being able to keep a resolution, it may be helpful to do some self-reflection about why your goal is so important and whether it’s worth the trouble. After such a reflection, you may realize you are not ready to make this resolution, and that’s okay. But if at some point you feel you are ready, you have to consider whether you have the skills and social support to follow through.

What resolutions should you make, and how do you keep them?
For those living with mesothelioma, the usual resolutions to live a healthier life – nutritious food, more exercise and smoking cessation – are classics for a reason: they make you feel better. Eating more fruits and vegetables will help manage your weight and deliver vitamins that support your immune system. Physical activity may keep your muscles functional while helping your body to take in more oxygen.

And when you have a respiratory disease, giving up smoking is a no-brainer.

In order to improve your success in keeping your resolution, it helps to be as specific and realistic as possible. Instead of saying, “I’m going to exercise more,” tell yourself, “I’m going to go walking after breakfast for 30 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.” Remember that beginning new habits takes time, and seeing results may be a slow process. Start out gradually, and try to keep a positive and patient attitude.

Also, you should make sure you’re doing things you enjoy. If you want to consume more vegetables, make sure you’re eating produce that you actually like.

You can also boost your success by scheduling a day to start your resolution, and making preparations before that day. For example, if you’re going to quit smoking, take the time to get rid of all of your cigarettes and talk to your doctor about nicotine cessation aids.

It can be easy to get derailed by changes in your schedule caused by illness or a vacation. You can plan ahead for such situations, though. If your resolution involves dieting, keep healthy meals on standby in the freezer so you don’t have to cook. If you’re trying to exercise more, try to schedule a workout session during your vacation ahead of time

Therapy dogs can bring comfort to mesothelioma patients

therapy_dogPeople who are diagnosed with a malignant disease, such as mesothelioma, tend to face emotional challenges as well as physical ones. Because of this, many patients turn to various sources of support. Family members and friends lend their open ears. Religious counselors can see to any spiritual needs. Yoga exercises allow individuals to center themselves and remember their breathing.

Different patients will respond positively to a variety of therapies, and many are worth trying. That includes a friendly nudge from wet nose.

History experts note that dogs and humans have spent 14,000 years forging a bond, providing each other warmth and friendship. This symbiosis is strong, and when the going against mesothelioma gets tough, some patients can fall back on that strength.

Why is living with mesothelioma hard?

People often do not realize they have malignant mesothelioma until they start experiencing pain, chronic coughing, difficulty breathing or other symptoms. By then, the illness is usually in its advanced stages.

There is currently no cure for mesothelioma, but there are several treatments that can alleviate its symptoms and extend survival, including radiation and chemotherapy. However, these approaches are often accompanied by difficult side effects, such as fatigue, changes in appetite, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. These reactions, combined with the symptoms of mesothelioma, can really take an emotional toll on patients. Some become anxious or depressed. Worse yet, some patients feel less motivated to adhere to their regimens, and that can lead to serious problems.

Companionship from capable canines

For thousands of years, humans have relied on dogs for a variety of tasks. While some canines help herd farm animals, others provide protection in law enforcement K-9 units. However, during the second half of the 20th century, dogs started being used for another important purpose – helping people within a medical setting.

During the 1990s, Therapy Dogs International (TDI) conducted a survey in which they asked various medical personnel to discuss the benefits of having therapy dogs visit patients in care facilities.

When it came to the patients:

  • 92 percent of healthcare providers said the dogs improved patients’ mood
  • 86.5 percent reported better social interactions among patients
  • 63.5 percent saw improvements in mobility
  • 80 percent said patients were more alert
  • 48 percent said patients were more cooperative
  • 17 percent of respondents saw improvements in people’s blood pressure.

In a nutshell, therapy dogs can bring a sense of normalcy to patients’ lives. Furthermore, many of those surveyed said that visits from the therapy dogs also boosted the morale of the workers themselves.

“When the dogs started visiting me during my cancer treatment, it was the turning point. My attitude improved, and my health started improving. It never dawned on me that therapy dogs would be such an important part of my well-being,” one hospital patient told Pfizer scientists. The pharmaceutical company is supporting additional research on how animal-assisted visits may affect pain management, medication adherence, recovery time and chemotherapy tolerance.

From facilities to homes

It is important to remember that therapy dogs are not the same as service dogs, which are specially trained to perform specific tasks to help the disabled. Therapy dogs perform volunteer work in tandem with a human partner. Organizations like TDI are able to organize patients’ visits with therapy dogs wherever they may be needed. This may include different treatment centers.

“We are excited to be able to provide a welcomed break in the day for patients, many of whom are in the hospital for long term care. Interacting with the dogs has a noticeable impact on their mood and enhances their well-being,” said Patricia Murphy, RN, MSN, director of oncology services at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Furthermore, TDI can help arrange visits to the homes of patients themselves.

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