PHILADELPHIAStrength 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 patients 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
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 caregivers 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
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.