Being a Caregiver for the Newly Diagnosed
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: November 2017 | Last updated: July 2019
Receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis can be scary and stressful. It’s not uncommon for a newly diagnosed man to need support. If a loved one close to you receives this news, they may ask you for extra help, or to take on some specific aspects of a caregiver role. Not all men will need a caregiver, and some men that do may not feel comfortable asking. Even if you are not directly asked to be a caregiver, it may still be a good idea to keep open lines of communication with your loved one and let them know that you’re here if they need you.
Many men are more likely to seek out help from a healthcare professional when their spouse/partner and family members are encouraging and supportive. Many men can become overwhelmed when faced with too much information and may stop asking questions when they become embarrassed or fearful. This is when you may best be able to be of assistance.
If you do take on a caregiver role for a man who has been newly diagnosed with prostate cancer, there are several things to for you to think about as you prepare for your new role.
Be prepared for a range of emotions
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be stressful and bring along with it a wide range of emotions. These emotions may impact your loved one, but can greatly affect you as well. Taking on this new role, and accompanying someone on this unpredictable journey, can take a toll at times. This is why it’s important to address these emotions and changing feelings head on, and encourage your loved one to do the same. Seeking in-person support groups, counseling, therapy, or simply making time for an activity that brightens you or your loved one’s mood can all help combat these feelings, keeping both you and your loved one mentally and emotionally healthy.
It’s possible that you and your loved one have heard of prostate cancer, but are not familiar with the more in-depth details of the condition. Taking the time to research prostate cancer, its treatment options, specialists in your area, and what to expect during this time may make a huge difference. It’s possible that your loved one may be overwhelmed by the diagnosis, and not feel ready to pursue this information right away.
As a caregiver, you can help with some of the research legwork, find pertinent information, and start creating a list of questions for your loved one’s healthcare team. It is important to note, however, that 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.
Identify support sources
As mentioned, your loved one’s prostate cancer journey may take a mental and emotional toll on both you and the man you’re caring for. On top of this, battling prostate cancer may affect your loved one’s physical and financial health as well. There are many resources that exist for individuals with conditions like cancer, which are designed to provide financial support, help with transportation, and foster strong mental and emotional health. This list only scratches the surface of all of the potential support resources that exist for your loved one, and for you too. Your loved one’s healthcare team may be able to help point you in the right direction as far as resources in your area that they’re familiar with. Also, finding what resources are available and appropriate for you or your loved one can be a part of your prostate cancer research.
Communicate expectations, as well as your needs
Taking on the role of a caregiver can change your relationship with your loved one. Their needs may change during this journey, and yours may too. It’s important to remember that everyone’s battle with prostate cancer is different, and there is no set pathway for you and your loved one to take. Keeping open lines of communication with your partner, and encouraging them to be honest with you about what they need and when can help keep your relationship healthy. Also, although you are your loved one’s caregiver, your needs and health are important too. Caregiver fatigue exists, and it can take a toll. To prevent burnout or frustration, it’s important to communicate your feelings and experiences to your loved one as well. If you are experiencing mental, emotional, or physical distress, you will not be able to be an effective caregiver for your loved one.