How do I get my father, who has prostate cancer, to accept help from others?

2 answers | Last updated: May 30, 2012
A fellow caregiver asked...
I've created a wonderful network of people to help care for my 75-year-old father, who is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. The problem is, he's started saying he doesn't want those who have volunteered to cook for him or drive him to appointments -- he wants me to do everything. How do I explain to him that I have other responsibilities and need him to accept the help of others?

Expert Answers

Bonnie Bajorek Daneker is author and creator of the The Compassionate Caregiver's Series, which includes "The Compassionate Caregiver's Guide to Caring for Someone with Cancer," "The Journey of Grief," "Handbook on Hospice and Palliative Care," and other titles on cancer diagnosis and end of life. She speaks regularly at cancer research and support functions, including PANCAN and Cancer Survivor's Network. She is a former member of the Executive Committee of the CSN at St. Joseph's Hospital of Atlanta and the Georgia Chapter of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

This is one of the issues that forces you and your dad to acknowledge the reversal of roles that's taken place because of his cancer and your caregiving. Your father is probably used to giving orders and having you do what he says. But now you're the one in charge, and he doesn't like it.

You're going to have to talk to him about the central issue, which is that you're the one overseeing his care, and he has to accept that you know what you're doing. You have remain strong in this because you're the adult in the relationship now. If you don't hold your ground, you're giving him license to walk all over you and you'll end up constantly renegotiating everything.

You can name and acknowledge his feelings, explaining that you understand how tired and uncomfortable he is and that he'd rather have you take care of him than someone he doesn't know as well. But you should also say that you've given this a lot of thought and believe it's the best thing to have other people involved in his care.

Explain that it's better for both of you this way. It's better because trying to do everything yourself will burn you out, and it's better for him to add variety to his days by seeing other people. Remind him -- if it's the case -- that even when he thinks he's not up to seeing people, he usually ends up enjoying it.

If you find yourself feeling upset that your father doesn't seem to appreciate how hard you've worked to coordinate his care and make sure his needs are covered, remind yourself that his sickness is preventing him from seeing things clearly. He's caught up in his pain, fears, and discomfort, and can't see the bigger picture. You have worked hard to coordinate his care and are doing the best you can, and there will be times in the future when he'll be better able to appreciate that.


Community Answers

Lightglow answered...

As a person who is considered old now, and with a husband who has been treated for prostate cancer, I would say, Bite the bullet and do absolutely everything you can for your father. Time is fleeting. You will not always have him around. Keeping his life the same as possible is a great boost to the emotional immune system. Being with you helps keep things "normal". Being with others can cause a feeling of dependence... the enemy of good health. What all did he sacrifice for you when you were born? Love is the key any way it is looked at.