Patti’s Caregiving Story: Lessons from Depression and Self-Care

In Part II of Patti's caregiving story, Patti goes into more detail about her experiences as Len's caregiver as he battled prostate cancer. She opens up about the challenges she's faced since his diagnosis. Read Part I in Patti’s Caregiving Story: Becoming My Husband's Caregiver.

Supporting a loved one through depression

As a caregiver, Len's depression was my biggest challenge ever. I didn’t understand it and I lost my husband. For the first time, there was silence in our relationship. As always Len tackled the problem with physicians, therapist, and medications but he was lost and so was I as a caregiver. He was on maximum doses of anti-depression medication and still struggling and so was I on how to help him. He didn’t want to converse so I didn’t know what to do or understand.

It has been about 2½ years now since the depression started and his depression medication has been greatly reduced. He is now socializing again and involved within our community. I can say I have my husband back. I still don’t have an answer as how to cope as a caregiver with someone with depression from ADT. I do know you need to be available but not smothering for the patient has to find their way out of the depression.

What helped you through the hard times?

Living with Len and his depression from the ADT as a caregiver was brutal. Luckily a friend saw me one day and insisted on a lunch date, which I believe, is what saved me from drowning or sharing in the depression diagnosis! So our lunch date allowed me to talk and open up about my struggles and feelings. It helped incredibly and we still meet for a monthly lunch to laugh and share stories.

Near the same time, I was let go from my full time job. The only good thing about that was that it gave me time. I started an art class that my sister insisted I go to the next week. It was meditative and an outlet. I set up an easel in the house and was able to paint and lose myself for a few hours.

After losing my job I also had time to reach out to friends and filled my days. I did go back to work part-time in the job I held previously where I was welcomed with open arms. It was what I needed. A positive experience that was also healing for me.

Now I’ve learned as new episodes pop up (Len had an aortic valve replaced in February of this year and a subdural hematoma this June) I reach out to family and friends that will listen, and it helps incredibly. I’ve learned that keeping everything internalized does not help. Through all the roads we walk as a caregiver to help others, we also need support.

What prostate cancer taught me

  • Diagnosis is just the beginning of the journey. Most men can be treated.
  • Find a doctor you believe in and follow his recommendations.
  • Be an advocate
  • Be available to help your spouse or loved one. Listen and observe for needs.
  • The caregiver needs to seek support as well as the patient.

Reach out to friend and family you can confide in. Find a hobby or activity where you can lose yourself for a few hours a day. I did this through art and now have added weekly exercise and yoga. Even reading a good book where you can lose yourself for an hour or so will help make your world a bit easier.

If there's one thing I want others to better understand about prostate cancer it is this: if it is caught early and contained in the prostate bed, there is almost a 100% survival rate. This is one cancer that can be determined through a yearly blood test. Easy! Monitor your PSA numbers -- and watch for changes.

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