8 Ways to Support a Sick Spouse

Communication is key

If your loved one has been newly diagnosed with the big C, you may wonder how best you can support him or her. You may feel overwhelmed and unprepared; that’s normal. But you should also know that health-care workers report that many people tell them caring for a seriously ill partner often strengthens a relationship.

Here are eight tips to help your loved one through diagnosis and treatment:

  1. Communicate. Ask your partner what he needs. Encourage him to share his feelings. Don’t hide your emotional journey. Be honest about your needs and feelings, too.
  2. Take time to process. Spend some couple time to get through the initial shock and to make decisions. You might also use this time to map out a plan for childcare, household duties and finances.
  3. Decide how to break the news to your circle. Does your wife want to tell only family? What about close friends or co-workers? Ask your spouse or partner if it’ll ease her stress if you help break the news. Once people know, some of them will offer to help. Accept the help! Figure out how to make the best use of this network so the two of you can focus on treatment.
  4. Listen. Let your partner cry, ramble or howl at the moon if he needs that. Don’t take the show of emotions personally. Ask: Do you need me right now?
  5. Maintain routines when you can. Everything can’t always focus on cancer. You’ll both need a break sometimes.
  6. Direct traffic. Cancer treatment can be overwhelming. You can be a big help if you schedule appointments, pick up prescriptions, call for test results and accompany your spouse to doctor visits.
  7. Seek advice. Join a support group or talk to a neighbor who has gone through this same thing. If you have young children, find resources to help you communicate with them.
  8. Take care of you. Maintain your health and sanity by going to yoga, catching a movie with a friend or participating in your weekly bowling league. Have a massage or get a pedicure. Know that it’s OK for you to enjoy life.
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