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How Can Caregivers Help with Treatment Decision-Making?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: November 2017 | Last updated: April 2021

As a caregiver, you may wonder how much of an impact you may have on your loved one’s treatment decision-making process. Even though you may be present for much of what your loved one is going through, you are not a healthcare provider and have only shared parts of the experience that your loved one has. In spite of this, as a caregiver, you can and do play a significant role, and the treatment decision-making process is a big part of the experience you share with your loved one.

For many men with prostate cancer, their spouse or partner or other loved ones can play a key role in the treatment decision-making process. It is important to let your loved one make their own decisions, and give them the space to do what they are comfortable with, however, many men turn to their spouse or partner as they are weighing their treatment options. If your loved one has indicated to you that they want you included in their decisions, there are a few things you can consider to help support them in this process.

Attend appointments

Attending appointments, and being attentive during these visits, is one of the most important ways to get involved in treatment decision-making. At your loved one’s appointments, you can find out where they are at in their cancer battle, and what treatment options may be on the horizon. Your loved one’s healthcare team may even present them with several treatment options to consider, with the intention of starting as soon as they make a decision.

Each of the various treatment options has different side-effects, recovery times, and other consideration which will be part of what you will want to consider. Providing an extra set of eyes and ears, and even taking notes during these appointments, can allow you to be on the same page as your loved one’s healthcare team, and fully understand the treatment options being considered.

Ask questions

Although it is important to give your loved one space during their healthcare visits, they may feel overwhelmed with what’s being presented to them. This could prevent them from asking important questions. As a caregiver, you can help prompt the conversation and ask questions regarding treatment side-effects, success rates, and details about any procedures presented. Providing support in this way may encourage your loved one to join in and ask their own questions, as well as spark further ideas or concerns that need to be addressed.

Investigate at home

Whether you just want to learn more, or you realize you have a new question that needs to be addressed, it’s a good idea to do your own research on the treatment options presented to your loved one. This can help you get a better idea of the side-effects of different options, as well as their potential long-lasting impacts. This research can take many forms, including visiting blogs or online communities to learn more about how other men have reacted to these treatments, and to discover ways they have been able to cope and manage any issues.

Discuss side-effects and lifestyle changes

Nearly every treatment option will carry its own set of side-effects that could impact your loved one’s quality of life. Not all of these will be debilitating, but some may create serious frustrations and change the way your loved one lives on a daily basis. Talking openly about these potential issues and creating plans in the event that they may happen, may help your loved one feel more comfortable about pursuing a specific treatment option. Conversely, if there are side-effects that you both know may be hard to manage, and will be hard to create a plan together to prepare for, it may help your loved one decide against that treatment option.

Keep open lines of communication

No matter what treatment option you and your loved one decide on, his needs (as well as yours) may change. Side-effects may arise or change in their severity, and the ability to get to and from healthcare appointments may become challenging. It’s important to be approachable to your loved one and encourage him to share any frustrations with you. You should also be able to share any of your own personal concerns with him as well.

When you are a caregiver for a man with prostate cancer, the course of treatment will affect both of your lives. You can only be as good of a caregiver as your own health allows. If you are feeling overwhelmed by treatment schedules, or are struggling to help your loved one cope with side-effects, it’s important to let him know, and seek the support that you may need for yourself as well.

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