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Strength for Caring Program Teaches Skills to Caregivers

Strength for Caring Program Teaches Skills to Caregivers

PHILADELPHIA—Strength for Caring is a community-based educational program led by trained nurses or social workers who teach caregivers about the skills and resources they need to care for a loved one with cancer.

Strength for Caring is typically conducted in half-day sessions in convenient locations such as health care facilities or community centers. The program uses slides, instructional videos, and interactive discussion to address issues commonly encountered by cancer caregivers, including understanding cancer and its treatment, managing symptoms such as fatigue and pain, dealing with changing family roles, improving their own mental and physical health, and identifying and taking advantage of community resources.

In addition, all participants receive a Strength for Caring Caregiver Information Kit, a set of materials that help caregivers feel more confident and prepared about the care they will provide.

Strength for Caring is free and open to anyone who is or will be a cancer care-giver. The ideal times for caregivers to participate in the program are at the patient’s diagnosis, at the beginning or end of a treatment cycle, at recurrence, or when there is a change in treatment goals, because such transition points are frequently associated with increased feelings of stress and vulnerability.

Table 1. A Profile of Cancer Caregivers

  • 83% are white, 15% are black, and 1% are Hispanic.

  • 82% are female.

  • 71% are married.

  • 61% have been providing care for less than 6 months.

  • 54% live with the patient for whom they are caring.

  • 47% are more than 50 years old.

  • 36% report that caregiving takes more than 40 hours of time per week.

A study from the Journal of Family Nursing has provided a profile of the typical cancer caregiver (Table 1), as well as a report on the impact of caregiving on the caregiver’s physical, emotional, and financial health (Table 2). The study was based on questionnaires from 750 cancer caregivers who participated in the University of Pennsylvania Family Caregiver Cancer Education Program, the predecessor of the Strength for Caring program.

Table 2. Consequences of Cancer Caregiving

Physical

  • 70% report taking between 1 and 10 medications per day.

  • 62% said their own health had suffered Is a result of caregiving.

  • Emotional—negative

  • 85% report that they resent having to provide care.

  • 70% said their families were not working well together.

  • 54% visited friends and family less since assuming their caregiving role.

  • 35% said they were overwhelmed by their caregiving role.

Emotional—positive

  • 97% said their caregiver role was important.

  • 81% said they wanted to provide care.

  • 67% said they enjoyed providing care.

Financial

  • 46% reported inadequate financial resources.

Strength for Caring was developed at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and is made possible through a grant from Ortho Biotech Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company. Cancer caregivers and patients can learn where the program is being conducted in their area by calling 1-888-ICARE80 (1-888-422-7380) or visiting the website on the Internet at www.oncolink.upenn.edu/sfc.

 
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