Practical Answers To Common Questions

Learning that your father, mother, or any family member, has been diagnosed with mesothelioma is devastating, made more so by the fact that it is a preventable disease for which there are few treatment options. In addition to shock, confusion and sadness, you are probably wondering how to deal with this new reality going forward while ensuring your loved one gets the best care and support possible.

While some questions are best answered in the doctor’s office, others are not and you may be at a loss to know what to do next. At Shepard O’Donnell, we have worked with many families in your situation and can offer some guidance about the weeks and months ahead. While preparing hundreds of successful mesothelioma lawsuits, we often act as a resource for our clients and offer support whenever we can. 

Here are some of the most common questions we are asked:

Q: Can I Get Financial Help To Pay The Bills?
A: Investigate All Options, Including Filing A Lawsuit.

As a first step, educate yourself about all available programs and assistance, including VA benefits if your parent qualifies, and start the application process. This disease often requires aggressive intervention in the form of surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy and your parent will need care and support to help him or her through. While cost might not initially be your main concern, the bills will soon start adding up. 

Insurance and other benefits may only cover a portion of your medical bills. We encourage you to contact a local attorney or firm, such as Shepard O’Donnell, to determine if you have a potential mesothelioma legal case. 

Q: How Can I Help Build A Legal Case?
A: Talk To Your Parents About Their Work History Now.

We understand that your priority is educating yourself about the disease and treatment plan, but we also urge you to talk to your parent about how he or she might have developed mesothelioma. Since the only known cause of the disease is asbestos exposure, it is important to establish how and when that exposure occurred, particularly if you plan to pursue a lawsuit. 

We encourage our clients to talk to their parents about their work history as soon as possible; unfortunately, once diagnosed, this disease progresses relatively quickly, and treatment and medications can impact memory and the ability to communicate later on. Ask questions about whether they remember working with asbestos, what employers they worked for, which job sites they worked at, what equipment or tools they may have used, who their co-workers were and whether they have contact information for anyone associated with that job. To successfully pursue compensation from companies that willfully ignored the dangers of asbestos, you will need to provide as much specific information as possible about your parent’s exposure. (If your parent is a military veteran, you can reassure him or her that we will not pursue damages from the military, rather, we seek compensation from the manufacturers of the asbestos-containing products themselves.)

Q: What Other Documents Should I Look For?
A: Gather Together All Important Information To See If Anything Is Missing.

In addition to collecting information about your parent’s detailed work history, there are a number of other documents you should start compiling and/or preparing. For example, does your parent have a current will and/or a living will? A designated health care proxy? Are bank accounts in both parents’ names? Is the house in both names? Unfortunately, the prognosis for this disease is often poor and having important documents at hand when you need them will ensure things run smoothly and quickly later on. Other paperwork to locate includes health and life insurance policies, banking information, social security information, and military records. Often overlooked, but also important, are passwords and PIN numbers for various accounts, and contact information for friends and family. Call us and we can help with these important documents.

Q: Do I Need to Worry About Getting Mesothelioma Myself?
A: Probably Not.

You may be wondering if you yourself should be concerned about developing this disease. There is no genetic or hereditary component to mesothelioma since it develops solely as a result of asbestos exposure. That said, there have been many cases in which individuals who were exposed at work unknowingly brought asbestos back into the home. While workers who have been in close contact with asbestos are at the highest risk, it is critical to let your doctor know as early as possible if there’s even a small chance you may have been exposed to asbestos. If you aren’t currently experiencing any symptoms, but are concerned about possible past exposure, ask your doctor to set up regular monitoring. However, keep in mind that not everyone who has been exposed to asbestos will get mesothelioma or other cancers.

If you or a loved one does develop mesothelioma through asbestos brought into the home, you too could have a case. For example, we were able to secure a significant settlement for a client who developed mesothelioma as a result of  laundering the clothing of her husband, who worked at a facility that coated and cut asbestos paper for use in making gaskets. 

Q: What Can I Do To Support Both My Parents?
A: Sometimes Little Things Go A Long Way. 

Talk to the doctor to see how you and your family can keep your loved one as healthy and strong as possible, for as long as possible. This includes providing balanced meals to maintain a healthy weight so they are better able to tolerate treatment. The American Cancer Society has useful information about the importance of good nutrition during treatment. If preparing meals seems like a daunting task, there are several meal delivery services available in Massachusetts, including Community Servings whose mission it is to actively engage the community to provide medically tailored, nutritious, scratch-made meals to chronically and critically ill individuals and their families. We have also developed some recipes for healthy and nourishing smoothies that our clients enjoy.

Practical actions such as decluttering the house or bringing items necessary for daily living – including hobbies and diversions – onto one level, will be helpful in the long run. Identifying which supports may be required in the future and whether hospice or palliative care might be required are some things you can look into now to ensure peace of mind later. If possible, prepare for the future together so you can understand your parent’s goals and wishes for the end of life. Also, understand that each person’s stress, anxiety, and fear will manifest in different ways: some people retreat into themselves, some lash out. Remember not to take potential bad behavior personally.

While this is certainly a serious time, allow your parents permission to be happy during the last months. If they’re up for it, plan fun events and allow some time to laugh and enjoy life together.

Q: How Am I Going to Manage It All?
A: Be Sure To Take Care of Yourself, Too.

After the initial shock of the diagnosis, you are probably wondering what this means for your daily life. Your days are likely already full with work and other obligations such as driving the kids to practice, managing your own household and upholding various commitments. How will you find the time to deal with everything that needs to be done? 

Talk to your employer about whether you qualify for some time off under the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, to give you some breathing room. Above all, we urge you and all family members to take care of themselves: eat right, try to fit in some physical activity every day, get good quality sleep, and perhaps start a meditation or mindfulness practice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends or extended family and consider joining a support group for mesothelioma victims, such as these in-person and virtual options offered through Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Or contact us and ask us to connect you with family members of mesothelioma victims that you can talk to about tips for coping with this difficult situation.

We Are On Your Side

​​You and your family are undoubtedly experiencing emotional stress and trauma as you deal with this painful time in your lives. Make sure you find an attorney for whom you are not just a number on a spreadsheet or a docket. We are responsive, compassionate, and sincere. If you have any other questions, we are ready to help you find answers. 

At Shepard O’Donnell, we have helped hundreds of individuals and their families get justice for their injuries, regularly obtaining settlements and verdicts in the millions. We are happy to offer you a free case evaluation and will tell you honestly if we think you have a viable claim. Read more about the importance of hiring a local attorney.