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September 30, 2009 > Free Classes To Help Empower Cancer Caregivers

Free Classes To Help Empower Cancer Caregivers

Taking care of someone who has cancer can be a difficult job. The caregiver must learn not only how to manage the practical aspects of physically caring for the patient, but also how to cope with the emotional experiences that come with the territory. To provide information and resources to help ease that burden, Washington Hospital is sponsoring a four-week course for cancer caregivers of all ages on Tuesday nights from 6 to 7:30 p.m., beginning October 13.

"Many, many family members and friends are faced with the sometimes overwhelming responsibility of caring for loved ones with cancer," says Ruth Traylor, Washington Hospital's Director of Community Outreach. "Our physicians have noted that caregivers often don't know what to do, and that there are few programs in the Tri-City Area providing guidance and support. This program was developed to make this difficult task easier both for cancer caregivers and their patients."

The four-week course will cover a variety of topics related to cancer and caregiving. Caregivers of all ages are welcome to attend.

"We really want to encourage adolescents and young adults who play a role in providing care to parents or grandparents with cancer to attend," says Washington Hospital oncology nurse Lita Hughes, RN, who will help present a class on understanding cancer and current treatment options. "Ideally, caregivers should come to all four sessions, but there is no requirement to attend all four. The information from even one session can make a difference in a caregiver's ability to cope with the cancer experience."

The effort to develop this comprehensive caregiver education program was launched by the Washington Hospital Cancer Committee - a multidisciplinary group of physicians, nurses and support staff that meets regularly to discuss cancer services and patient cases. The committee enlisted the expert guidance and support of Juliane Lee, Health Programs Manager for the Alameda County Field Office of the American Cancer Society (ACS).

"The American Cancer Society has been very involved with hospitals to provide resources for cancer patients and their families," Lee explains. "This idea of providing educational services for caregivers aligns very closely with our goals."

In addition to providing guidance in developing the educational series, the ACS also is donating books about caregiving to the hospital library, including "Cancer in the Family: Helping Children Cope with a Parent's Illness," "Caregiving: A Step-by-Step Resource for Caring for the Person with Cancer at Home," and "The Complete Guide to Complementary Alternative Cancer Therapies." The ACS also will provide handouts at the classes, such as the booklet, "Talking to the Person with Cancer." Representing ACS, Lee will help conduct a class on finding help through community resources.

Topics for the four-week course include:
* October 13 - Cancer Basics: Learning about Cancer and Current Treatment Options. This session will explain how cancer involves the body's own cells growing out of control, which types of cancer are most common, "triggers" that can lead to cancer, lifestyle changes that may help prevent or control cancer, and treatment options such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy that can be used individually or in combination in the fight against cancer.

* October 20 - Mobilizing Resources. An introduction to various community resources for not only medical care, but also for social services such as support groups and home care, designed to help cancer caregivers connect to the broader community. Lee will be joined in giving this presentation by Ellen Cuozzo, RN, the Community Relations Nurse Liaison for Pathways Home Health, Hospice and Continuous Care.

* October 27 - Complementary Medicine. This session explores mind-body-spirit therapies that can help caregivers as well as patients cope with cancer. In addition to covering useful therapies such as meditation, massage, low-impact exercise, acupuncture, diet and nutrition, the session will alert caregivers to techniques and therapies that are not proven to be useful, encouraging caregivers to consult with their patient's physician before trying them.

* November 3 - Panel Discussion. A chance for caregivers to "ask the experts" questions on a variety of topics. Panel members will include:
-- Oncology nurse Lita Hughes
-- Washington Hospital oncologist Dr. Vandana Sharma
-- Nesley Moquette, a community volunteer who coordinates cancer support groups at Washington Hospital
-- Father Jeff Finley, Spiritual Care Coordinator at Washington Hospital
-- Nachal Bhangal, MS, RD, a Washington Hospital registered dietitian

All classes will be videotaped and made available in the hospital library. Videos of the classes also will be airing on Washington Hospital's "InHealth" TV program. For broadcast schedules, go to

"We hope these classes will be a valuable resource for people in our community who care for loved ones with cancer," Traylor notes. "If the classes are well-received, we will consider making them an annual offering."
All classes will be held in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditoriums in the Washington West building at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. Pre-registration is preferred, but not required. For more information or to register, visit or call (800) 963-7070.

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American Cancer Society Resources for Caregivers

In addition to working with organizations such as Washington Hospital, the ACS offers a variety of other resources to cancer patients and their caregivers.

"In April of this year, we launched a new program, with the American Cancer Society becoming the 'Official Sponsor of Birthdays' to recognize the 11 million cancer survivors who will have a birthday this year," says ACS Health Programs Manager Juliane Lee. "The web site for this program allows you to send special E-cards to mark a survivor's birthday, contribute to cancer research as your 'birthday cause', download an ASC birthday kit, and order materials to show your support for the fight against cancer." (

Other resources are available in a special section of the ACS web site geared to the needs of caregivers. Visit and click on the link for information for caregivers to learn more about topics such as:
* Coping as a Caregiver
* How to Provide Care
* Nearing the End of Life
* Connecting with Other Caregivers

The ACS also offers a free telephone-based educational program for cancer patients and caregivers via a conference call the first Wednesday of each month. Upcoming class topics include "Relieving Cancer Pain" on Wednesday, October 7 from 10 a.m. to noon, and "Exploring Self-Esteem and Intimacy" on Wednesday November 4, from 10 a.m. to noon. Pre-registration for the free telephone classes is required. To register or to get more information, call (800) ACS-2345 [800-227-2345].

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