Being a Caregiver and Part of the Healthcare Team
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2017 | Last updated: February 2019
When a loved one is battling prostate cancer, they may ask you to take on a caregiver role, to provide extra support. Caregivers and the tasks they help with can come in a variety of forms. Some caregivers may be needed to help a man get to his appointments or treatment sessions if he is unable to drive. Others may help with frustrating or embarrassing side effects of treatment, such as urinary or bowel incontinence. Occasionally, your loved one may ask you to join you when they talk to their healthcare team. No matter what your credentials are, you can still be a part of his healthcare team in a variety of ways.
Establishing your role as a caregiver may be a straight-forward process, with your loved one openly asking you for assistance. However, in some situations, your loved one may want extra help but might not feel comfortable asking for support. If you’re unsure what role your loved one wants you to take on, you may need to take the first step and offer. Letting your loved one know that you are here for whatever they need, including attending appointments and learning more about their prostate cancer with them, may be a good way to start the conversation.
Research has shown that many men are encouraged to seek out help from healthcare professionals when their spouse/partner and family members are encouraging and supportive. Many men are not active information-seekers and can be overwhelmed with information overload, or stop asking questions when they become embarrassed or fearful. This is when you may best be able to be of assistance.
Be available and attentive
A big part of joining the healthcare team is attending appointments or treatment sessions. While it may not be feasible for you to attend all medical appointments, it is important to make an effort and try to be available as much as possible. A caregiver who is an effective member of the healthcare team will regularly attend appointments or will make sure to check-in with their loved one regularly to understand what has been going on, and what options may be on the horizon.
It’s important to note that while attending every appointment with your loved one may seem great, your attendance might not make as much of an impact if you aren’t attentive. Being a part of the healthcare team means being an extra set of eyes and ears for your loved one during their visits, and learning more about what comes next. This might include taking notes or asking for further resources or information, among other options.
Do your research and ask questions
Before attending an appointment with your loved one, you can research more about what’s currently going on, and what their next steps may be. For example, if your loved one is newly diagnosed, you may spend time learning more about prostate cancer on a broad-scale, including finding information on what it is, and what the test results that confirmed your loved one’s diagnosis may mean.
If your loved one has been battling prostate cancer for some time and is experiencing debilitating side effects, you may be able to research if these side effects are related to their current treatment, and ask your loved one’s healthcare team if there are ways to better manage these frustrations. However, information overload and less-than-reputable sources of information both exist, which is why it’s important to take breaks during your research as well as make sure you’re using appropriate and verified resources.
Learning more about prostate cancer and its treatment as you go will naturally lead to questions that you can bring to your loved one’s provider. Also, writing down any questions your loved one may have asked between appointments is a good way to guide the conversation when you’re with their healthcare team in-person, and can help address their most pressing needs and concerns.
Continue the conversation at home
An advantage of being a caregiver and part of the healthcare team is that you will most likely be around your loved one much more than just at their appointments. As mentioned, you can use this to your advantage by recording any questions or frustrations between appointments, to make sure all of your loved one’s concerns are addressed when you’re face-to-face with their medical team.
Staying alert and attentive to your loved one can also help you spot signs of emotional distress or mental health concerns as well. Further, many prostate cancer treatment options have side effects that may impact quality of life for both the patient and caregiver. Your loved one may experience these at home and need extra help managing these issues. Even outside of the hospital or doctor’s office these issues can still happen and need to be managed, which is where the caregiver can come in.
No matter how you participate in your loved one’s healthcare team, it is important to keep open lines of communication to make sure both you and your loved one’s needs are met. Your loved one’s prostate cancer battle may be ever-changing, and your role may need to adjust as well.