Silicosis support service launched for patients

Friday, 08 September, 2023

Silicosis support service launched for patients

Lung Foundation Australia is preparing for a significant influx of new silicosis diagnoses in coming years with vital support services now in place for patients. The organisation has launched a Silicosis Social Work program which sits alongside its Silicosis Support Nurse service, both free, telephone-based support networks for people living with silicosis, their family and carers.

Lung Foundation Australia Senior Manager (Occupational Lung Disease) Elizabeth Early said getting support services in place is crucial, as research shows that more than a quarter of Australians who had worked with artificial stone benchtops have already developed the disease. “This insidious disease, which has no cure, is going to affect thousands of people over the next few years. While we’re continuing to work with governments to get a ban on importing silica-containing products in place, we also need to care for those who are already affected, and who will be in future, as more and more people are screened and diagnosed,” Early said.

Former stonemason Joshua Suwa, 35, was diagnosed with silicosis and then related scleroderma in 2019 after industry rumours about the materials they were working with led to getting himself tested.

“Silicosis has impacted my life, and my family’s life in so many ways. Physically, mentally, financially. I was doing well in my career, I was the provider for my family; we have two young beautiful boys, and now I can’t work in any field that uses my hands, I can’t really play physically with the kids — it is very tough,” Suwa said.

Suwa said silicosis support services are urgently needed. “When I was diagnosed there was nothing but my doctor, who was very good but there is just so much to deal with on every level. Someone who can support and talk things through with you and knows what emotions you are going through would be a real help, both to me and to my family,” Suwa said.

Through the Silicosis Social Work service, patients will be helped to navigate the practical and emotional impact of living with silicosis. The organisation can provide information, support and referral pathways on a range of topics, including processing a diagnosis, coping with progression, impact on family and relationships, financial and housing assistance, and emotional and mental health support.

The Silicosis Support Nurse service also provides information and support around understanding and living with silicosis, which includes information around coping with breathlessness, fatigue and other challenging symptoms that come with the disease.

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