Caring for a man who has prostate cancer is a challenging experience, especially for significant others, who may have to adjust to a new lifestyle with their partner. Here are some suggestions to help you through your experience and provide the best level of support, not only for your loved one, but for you as well.
Join a Support Group
It often helps to discuss your feelings with others who are going through the same experience. The patient support section of this website has listings of places to find support groups. If you are unable or prefer not to attend a support group in person, you can join an Internet chat group. There, you can rely on the support of others anonymously and have an immediate forum in which to address your concerns and find answers.
Learn About Prostate Cancer
Through this website and other suggested readings, you can remove some of the unknowns about the disease and what you and your loved one may be facing.
Focus on Communication
If your loved one has prostate cancer, now is the time to be extra understanding. Let him know you are interested in talking and listening to him, then listen to his feelings without judging or interrupting him. But don’t demand that he talk about his feelings if he doesn’t feel it would be helpful. (See PCF’s communication tips below for more on this.)
Participate in His Treatment
You can attend doctor’s appointments and accompany him for tests. He may not suggest this, but you can. If he refuses, don’t push the issue. If he is receptive to the idea, you might want to help out by taking notes during the appointment. Find out from his healthcare team what the treatment requires and what the side effects will be like so you can better help him through it.
Remember that, in general, men are less likely to discuss their health concerns or share their fears. Most likely, a loved one with prostate cancer will want and need lots of caring support from loved ones, family, and friends.
Look After Yourself
You can help your loved one most effectively if you also take care of yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep and maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you are overwhelmed emotionally, try talking things out with a close friend. Consider meditation, yoga, and listening to music to help you relax. Do what you can to maintain a positive attitude and set a good example for him.
That said, don’t impose any expectations that he should have a positive attitude. Some recent cancer research actually shows that maintaining a sense of optimism or a “positive attitude” is not necessarily beneficial if that is not truly how the patient feels.
More General Support and Information:
American Cancer Society: Caregivers
CancerCare: Caregiver Support Services
Don’t Lose Heart: Caregivers Caring for Caregivers
Family Caregiver Alliance
National Alliance for Caregiving
National Family Caregivers Association