Issues for Spouses/Partners/Caregivers
Although prostate cancer strikes only men, a diagnosis of prostate cancer can have a profound impact on a patient’s spouse/partner and family. The disease and its treatment can have a significant impact on lifestyle, quality of life and emotional well-being; and it may introduce challenges for expressing sexual intimacy.
Although it’s natural for the prostate cancer patient/survivor and loved ones/caregivers to feel many emotions including anxiety, fear and frustration, it’s important to take charge of managing the disease and to recognize that knowledge is power. It can reduce some of the anxiety and confusion that comes with a diagnosis of prostate cancer and is a prerequisite for making the best treatment choices given the unique circumstances and conditions that are specific to each patient’s diagnosis.
The following are some issues that you may encounter and advice on how to handle them as you and your loved one confront the challenges of dealing with prostate cancer.
A diagnosis of prostate cancer can lead to feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression. Your loved one will need you to be understanding and to listen to his feelings without judgment. Try not to pressure him to talk about his feelings before he is ready. Just knowing that you are there for him when he needs you can make a big difference to his sense of emotional well being.
Ask your loved one if he would like you to go with him to his doctor appointments and tests. Men often do not like to discuss their health, and your loved one may benefit from your presence as an advocate who can help voice concerns to the doctor. Also, knowing more about the disease and the treatment options can help with your input into identifying the necessary care and support that’s needed. Be prepared with questions to ask his doctor about the disease and treatment options. Find out what kind of side effects may occur after treatment and how they may affect quality of life for him and impact others.
- You can help your loved one to cope with the physical and emotional impact of cancer and its treatment by:
- Helping him stick to his normal routine as much as possible
- Making sure that he eats a heart healthy diet with enough calories to support his ideal weight
- Making sure he gets plenty of rest
Encouraging him to pursue activities that will improve his emotional well-being
- Activities that are purposeful and meaningful – going back to work, playing with his children or grandchildren
- Recreational activities – taking trips, golfing
- Exercise – improving both physical and emotional well-being
Anticipating and implementing changes in his lifestyle due to side effects of treatment
- Incontinence – sit at the back of the movie theater, choose aisle seating in airplanes
- Erectile dysfunction – seek out sexual contact and reestablish intimacy
- Seeking out support from other friends and family members
- Encouraging him to join a support group
- Becoming an advocate for prostate cancer research and awareness
While trying to cope with the day-to-day physical, emotional and financial challenges that accompany living with prostate cancer, it can be very beneficial for the patient and the spouse/partner/caregiver to talk with others who are having or have had the same experiences. As the Chinese proverb says, “To know the path ahead ask someone coming back.” Collaborating with your peers can provide emotional support as well as valuable treatment information, advice and tips from others who have “been there and done that.” There are many support groups for patients/survivors, spouse/partners and family members of patients with prostate cancer. Encourage your loved one to attend a support group meeting, join an online support community, or call the Us TOO prostate cancer toll-free HelpLine at (800) 808-7866.
"A Forum for Her” Support Group for Female Caregivers"
Because prostate cancer can be a couple’s disease, the woman is often subject to her own concerns in addition to those she shares with her partner. A Forum for Her is a regular conference call series (and invitation-only Facebook group) which provides women with important peer-to-peer support. CLICK HERE for more information or to register for the call.
Programs and Resources
- Issues for Caregivers
- Learn more about Prostate Cancer
- Read article “Outer-course vs. Inter-course” by Dr. Jo-an Baldwin Peters, on sexual intimacy suggestions and tips
Remember to take care of yourself as you and your loved one face this challenging time. Staying healthy and emotionally balanced will allow you to provide the kind of support your loved one needs. Get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise, and seek out support from friends and family. Maintain a positive outlook and provide your loved one with a sense of strength and security.