Strength for Caring: Support for Cancer Caregivers
Strength for Caring is an educational and supportive
program for caregivers of cancer patients. More
than 2,000 caregivers in Pennsylvania took part
in this program, both in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh,
from 1993 through 1998. Initially developed at
the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
in 1993 under a grant from the Pennsylvania Department
of Health, the program is currently sponsored
by Ortho Biotech, a pharmaceutical company that
has developed Strength for Caring into a national
This program combines education about cancer – including “What
is Cancer,” how it spreads, how it is treated, and how symptoms
can be managed – with support for caregivers of cancer patients.
Recognizing that patients are often discharged
early from the hospital and that most cancer treatment now takes place
in an outpatient setting, this program focuses on giving caregivers
tools to cope with their new roles. These tools include nurturing
the strength of the caregiver with information on stress management,
time management, how to ask for help, and local and national resources.
on staying healthy and cancer prevention are
also included. In addition, a videotape is available that explains
the common emotions experienced by caregivers such as anger, depression
and anxiety as a result of role changes. Basic information on caring
for a patient at home is included in a separate videotape. A section
of the program also deals with end-of-life issues and answers children’s questions about
cancer in the family.
The Strength for Caring program is 4 to 6 hours in length and is
usually given as a one-day workshop. It is facilitated by a nurse
and a social worker who are experienced in cancer care. Participants
are given materials to take home on a number of subjects, such as
symptom management and helpful resources. Because the focus of the
program is the caregiver, patients are not encouraged to attend the
program. This gives caregivers the opportunity to talk freely about
their experiences and to problem solve with other caregivers.
Over the past year, a number of staff members from the Joan Karnell
Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital have worked
along with other oncology experts to revise and
update this program. For more information about the Palliative Care
Program, call 1-800-789-PENN (7366). You can also request
an appointment online.