Helping Cancer Caregivers find Strength
Model Cindy Crawford, a dedicated cancer advocate who understands first-hand the toll that cancer caregiving can take on individuals and families, is teaming with Ortho Biotech Products, LP. to encourage participation in Strength for Caring™, a national education and support program for cancer caregivers.
The Strength for Caring program offers workshops across the country in conjunction with local hospitals, healthcare facilities and cancer centers, and online resources at www.StrengthForCaring.com.
"It was extremely difficult for my entire family when my younger brother was suffering from leukemia," says Cindy. "My mother was his primary caregiver, but we all were deeply affected by the emotional and physical tolls of cancer caregiving," adds Cindy, 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 little brother was ill - we faced the tough challenge of caregiving alone," she continues. "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."
According to the National Family Caregivers Association, 54 million adults, or 26.6 percent of the U.S. adult population, provide care for an elderly disabled or chronically ill relative or friend.
Strength for Caring workshops are conducted by accredited nurses and social workers, who undergo formal training to facilitate the programs, and are attended by people with family members or loved ones with cancer. The program curriculum includes a range of topics and addresses the needs of caregivers by helping them to:
- Understand cancer and its treatment,
- Manage common symptoms such as fatigue and pain,
- Meet the physical and emotional needs of people with cancer,
- Deal with changing family roles, and
- Improve their own physical and mental health.
Strength for Caring sessions focus on ways to improve care at home and teach valuable problem solving and communication skills. During the workshops, caregivers are encouraged to share their experiences in order to learn from each other, and sessions are tailored to address the concerns of the group. In addition, facilitators provide a variety of local and national resources to ease the challenges of caregiving. With an enhanced understanding of cancer and knowledge of available resources, caregivers are able to provide better care to the person with cancer, themselves and their families.
Over the years, the role of the family caregiver has changed significantly to include providing advanced care in the home. In fact, after discharge from the hospital, many people continue to receive complex treatments, such as home-administered chemotherapy, intravenous therapies and elaborate post-surgical care.
According to a study conducted by the National Family Caregivers Association, 54 million adults, or 26.6 percent of the U.S. adult population, provide care for an elderly disabled or chronically ill relative or friend. Caregivers often risk their own health status while dedicating themselves to the health and well-being of another. Community-based education and support for caregivers helps to relieve the stress of this demanding role .
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This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, September/October 2002.