Mesothelioma Foundation Expert Can Answer Your Questions!

Nurse Practitioner, Mary Hesdorffer, is a mesothelioma expert and has worked with mesothelioma patients and their families for the past twelve years. Mary is available to answer your questions about mesothelioma, its symptoms and treatments as well as options available to you. This help is a free service provided by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. We are not a law firm. Read more about the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.

TO GET HELP CALL: (877) End-Meso or (877) 363-6376 or fill out the form to the right to be contacted by her.

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Mesothelioma Caregivers | Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation

  Introduction Caregivers and Doctors
Taking Care of Yourself Respite Care
Caregivers and Children Meso-Connect

With a loved one's diagnosis of mesothelioma, the closest family member is often catapulted into the new role of caregiver. A caregiver, by definition, is an unpaid family member (or friend) that provides medical and emotional support to a patient. A caregiver generally provides the following care:

  • Administer drugs to patients
  • Shop and prepare food
  • Help patients eat
  • Help a patient with daily tasks such as bathing, going to the bathroom, walking, etc.
  • Do all household tasks such as do the laundry, pay bills, and clean the house
  • Chauffeur patients to and from doctor’s appointments
  • Talk with doctors and nurses and guide patient’s medical care

These tasks are time-consuming and often physically and emotionally demanding. They easily interfere with the caregiver's own life and work, and as a result can take a toll on the caregiver. However, research shows that caregivers who take care of their own needs and get the information, help, and support they need are better prepared to take care of their loved ones. Below, we have prepared information that we believe can be of help to caregivers. For any questions not addressed on this page, and for caregiver support groups, please contact Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner at or (703) 879-3920.

Caregivers and Doctors
It is extremely important for caregivers to be in equally good communication with both their loved ones and doctors. Due to patient confidentiality, a doctor may not be allowed to talk with the caregiver unless the patient is also present. One solution to this problem is to submit a signed consent form from the patient, giving the doctor permission to speak about their medical care and options directly to the caregiver. 

When dealing with mesothelioma in particular, a patient is usually in the care of several doctors at any one time. It is important to find out which doctor is the main point of contact and to keep informed about every aspect of the patient’s medical care. This includes asking about medications and side effects, what a patient can eat or drink, and questions about next steps. A typical doctor’s visit is around 15 minutes so it is a good idea to have a list of questions before the doctor’s appointment to make sure that all questions are being answered. This will help ensure that you receive all answers before you leave. Some doctors have a hard time communicating in words that a patient and caregiver can understand.  Do not be afraid to ask a doctor to explain something that you do not understand.

An excellent question to ask a doctor during a visit is: when should medical help be called outside of office hours?  A patient with mesothelioma may experience side-effects that could require medical attention. Ask a doctor what to expect and when it is appropriate to seek out medical help.

Taking Care of Yourself
It is essential for a caregiver to take care of themselves, and not just the patient. A caregiver cannot provide consistent and ongoing support and care unless their own needs are being met.

Caregivers are prone to feeling alone, helpless, guilty, confused, or angry. These feelings in small doses are normal. When they become overwhelming, they may cause depression.  Some symptoms of depression include extreme fatigue, anger, lack of energy, and frequent crying. Feelings of depression shouldn't be viewed as a sign of weakness, rather a sign that something is out of balance and needs addressing.

Some ways to deal with depression is to:
• Get support from family and friends
• Do some physical activity
• Eat balanced meals
• Seek spiritual support
• Spend some time journaling, meditating or in nature

Through Meso-Connect we identify and connect you with members of our mesothelioma community who "have been there, and have done that."

Register for Meso-Connect here.

Respite Care
Caregivers should try to take time for themselves by getting away from the patient and the house every day. This can become a challenge when a patient needs to be cared for 24/7.  This is where respite care comes into play. Respite care is the term used to describe short-term, temporary relief for those who are caring for family members who might otherwise need professional aid. Respite is a short break from the exhausting challenges of being a caregiver. It has been shown to help keep family caregivers healthy and improve their sense of wellbeing.

A respite care provider is trained to take care of a patient's needs and can come for 1-2 hours a day to watch over the patient. A respite care provider must be told when medical help should be contacted. This will allow the caregiver to have some time to take care of their own needs as well as errands. Respite care providers can be found through local civic groups, churches, or community organizations. Another option for respite care is to have a patient stay in a local facility for a week or two to allow time for the caregiver. These facilities provide trained medical help on staff to cover a patient's needs and administer drugs. They are sometimes also covered by various insurance plans. Check with Medicare and Medicaid to see if respite care is covered.
Find home healthcare options here.
Caregivers and Children
Children in the household who are too young to help, can often feel abandoned and alone. It is important for a caregiver to spend time with children and talk over their fears and concerns. While keeping routines during this time is important in maintaining a semblance of normalcy, doings so can become overwhelming for the caregiver. Seeking help from friends, family members and community members is recommended.
If a child becomes upset, angry, withdrawn or changes drastically behaviors, it is essential for the caregiver to let them know that their loved one is working to get better and that all the best resources and treatment avenues are being pursued. Allowing the child to participate in information-sharing will make him/her feel more control over the situation.
The Meso Foundation offers support and advice on how to speak with children about cancer. Please contact the Foundation at 703-879-3797 or at