Australia’s peak lung health organisation is preparing for a significant influx of new silicosis diagnoses in coming years, with vital support services now in place for patients.
Lung Foundation Australia Senior Manager Occupational Lung Disease Elizabeth Early said with the latest research finding more than a quarter of Australians who had worked with artificial stone benchtops had already developed the disease, getting support services in place was crucial.
‘Lung Foundation Australia has now launched our Silicosis Social Work program which sits alongside our Silicosis Support Nurse service, both free telephone-based support networks for people living with silicosis, their family and carers,’ said Ms Early.
‘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.’
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.
He says silicosis has impacted his life, and his 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,’ he said.
I can’t really play physically with the kids – it is very tough.’
Mr Suwa said silicosis support services were sorely 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.’
How to get help
Through Lung Foundation Australia’s 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 such as:
- Processing a diagnosis.
- Impact on family and relationships.
- Financial and housing assistance.
- Coping with progression.
- Emotional and mental health support.
The Silicosis Support Nurse service can also provide information and support around understanding and living with silicosis, which may include information around coping with breathlessness, fatigue and other challenging symptoms that come with this disease, as well as providing guidance about relevant support services.
Find out more here: Find a Service – Lung Foundation Australia.