Together We Can -- Newsletter of the Joan Karnell Cancer Center

Spring 2003

Our Focus is on You
Strength for Caring: Support for Cancer Caregivers
Finding the Strength to Live Again
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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 program.

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.

Information 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.


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Need an appointment? Request one online 24 hours/day, 7 days/week or call 800-789-PENN (7366) to speak to a referral counselor.

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