Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, affecting nearly 1 in 8 men in their lifetime. Most people with prostate cancer survive for many years after diagnosis, especially when it’s caught during the early stages of disease.

But receiving a cancer diagnosis can still be difficult to cope with, and some treatment options can cause undesirable side effects. Having a good support network is important for people with prostate cancer.

Because prostate cancer is commonly diagnosed later in life, adult children are often involved in caring for parents with the disease.

It may be hard to know where to start when caring for a loved one with cancer. In this article, we’ll look at seven ways that you can support a parent living with advanced prostate cancer.

Language matters

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article uses the term “men” to refer to sex assigned at birth. Your gender identity may not align with how your body responds to this disease.

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Coping with cancer can be difficult, and a person with prostate cancer may be confused, frustrated, or scared. It may feel awkward talking about some topics, but it’s important to let your parent know that you’re available to talk with them about whatever they may need.

Being supportive doesn’t mean that every conversation needs to be about cancer. Some people may appreciate being able to talk with their loved ones about other things, like hobbies or interests.

While many people with prostate cancer are eager to have support, others may be reluctant to talk about their health concerns or share their feelings. Don’t force your parent to talk if they don’t want to, but let them know you’re there if they need you.

The American Cancer Society offers advice on effective and compassionate communication for caregivers.

Learning more about the disease and available treatment options can help relieve some of the unknowns about prostate cancer. It can also help you understand what to expect so you can reassure your loved ones and give them accurate information.

Information about prostate cancer is available from a variety of professional organizations, such as:

Get ahead of the situation by talking with your parent about how you can help with their healthcare at the beginning of your involvement.

If helping them will require you to have access to their medical information, you’ll need their consent so that their healthcare team can share that information with you.

If your parent consents to you being involved in their healthcare, their medical team will need a record of that on file. Their healthcare team may ask that they sign a release form ahead of time or for you to accompany them to a medical appointment.

It’s also important to set realistic expectations about what kind of help you can provide, whether that be showing up emotionally, physically, or in other ways. Boundaries are needed for caregivers as well, and it’s important that you feel respected in your role.

If your parent is comfortable with it, attend doctor’s appointments and take notes.

People coping with cancer may have difficulties understanding or remembering all of the information they get at appointments, and it can be helpful to have a caregiver remind them of details they may have missed.

You may also consider researching treatment options by their doctor to help them understand the risks and benefits of treatment, as well as what side effects to expect.

You can help keep their healthcare team updated on how they’re doing and the symptoms they’re experiencing. Research suggests that when symptoms are shared with doctors by caregivers, they’re more likely to be addressed.

Keep a list of their care team’s key contacts on you at all times, and make sure all members of their care team have your contact information as well.

It can be difficult caring for a parent with prostate cancer alone. Many resources are available to help make things easier for you and your parent.

Online or in-person support groups can help people with prostate cancer feel less alone, giving them an opportunity to ask questions and discuss their feelings with people who are having similar experiences.

Your parent’s doctor can help you find local support groups. The Prostate Cancer Foundation also provides links to a variety of online prostate cancer support groups on their website.

If your parent is having difficulties coping with their disease, you might also consider talking with them and their healthcare team about other mental health resources.

Make sure your parent has completed all the necessary legal documentation, such as an advance healthcare directive and power of attorney forms.

It can be helpful to make copies of these documents for your own records, along with health insurance cards and other important financial information.

Advanced prostate cancer may require several different kinds of treatment and may involve multiple doctors. It can also be helpful for caregivers to help their parents understand their health insurance coverage and what to do if their claim is denied.

Caring for someone with prostate cancer is challenging, and it’s important to care for yourself as well, so you can show up for your parent when they need you.

Take time to do the things you love. Connect with your own support networks. Your feelings and experiences are valid, and it’s important to talk about them to protect your mental and physical health.

Keep your immune system healthy by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Consider using stress management techniques to cope with your parent’s illness.

If you become concerned about your mental health, a 2017 study suggested that cognitive behavioral therapy can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress in caregivers of family members with prostate cancer.

Caring for yourself also means understanding that you may not be able to do it all. If you can, delegate certain responsibilities to other members of the family to lighten your workload.

Professional resources may also be available to help as needed, such as by providing transportation to medical visits.

Caregivers play an invaluable role in supporting people with prostate cancer and are often a source of comfort and relief.

In addition to the tips described above, organizations that help serve people with prostate cancer can provide additional resources to help you navigate more ways to support a parent in need.

Prostate cancer diagnoses are more common in older men, so adult children often end up being involved in caring for their parents.

If you’re caring for a parent with prostate cancer, it’s also important to remember to care for yourself. This will help you connect with your parent from a place of understanding and empathy.