Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN
Last Modified: August 4, 2002
More than 1.3 million cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2002. The family members and loved ones of these patients are often confronted with the challenge of being the caregivers outside of the hospital setting. Many caregivers accompany patients to their appointments, becoming advocates for these patients in the hospital setting. A study conducted by the Fatigue Coalition found that caregivers frequently missed as many workdays as the patients for whom they were caring, causing the caregiver financial and emotional strain. Research has shown that caregivers suffer both physical and emotional problems as a result of caregiving. Researchers at The University of Pennsylvania felt that if caregivers were provided with the knowledge and tools to manage caregiving, they may be better able to handle the experience. With these thoughts in mind, an educational program for caregivers was developed in 1993, in conjunction with three other healthcare institutions. The program, called Strength for Caring, was funded for 5 years by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Cancer Control Program. At the conclusion of the grant, Ortho Biotech, who currently promotes the program nationwide, assumed the program. Model Cindy Crawford is a dedicated cancer advocate who knows first hand the toll cancer caregiving can take on a family. Cindy has teamed with Ortho Biotech Products to encourage participation in the Strength for Caring program.
Strength for Caring is a free program, which addresses topics such as understanding cancer and it's treatment, managing patient symptoms, dealing with changing family roles, community resources, and improving the caregiver's physical and mental health. The programs are taught by trained health professionals (nurses and social workers), and offered at locations around the country. Health professionals may also contact the organization for information about starting a program in their area.
When Cindy Crawford was eight years old, her younger brother was diagnosed with leukemia. The illness affected the entire family, but most significantly, her mother, who was the child's main caregiver. "It was extremely difficult for my entire family when my younger brother was suffering from leukemia," said Crawford. "My mother was his primary caregiver, but we were all deeply affected by the emotional and physical tolls of cancer caregiving," added Crawford, who ultimately lost her brother to the disease. "My family was not fortunate enough to have the support of a program like Strength for Caring when my brother was ill. We faced the tough challenge of caregiving alone," she continued. "Now caregivers can get the help they need from the Strength for Caring program, which provides support, empowerment and practical coping mechanisms for cancer caregivers."
The Strength for Caring program offers workshops across the country in conjunction with local hospitals, healthcare facilities and cancer centers. For more information, call 1-888-I-CARE-80 or visit the Strength for Caring website.