Caregivers: Support for Family Caregivers of Loved Ones with Serious Illness

The UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine has produced a series of materials as part of the Caregivers Project to support family caregivers of loved ones with serious illness.

The Orientation to Caregiving Handbook offers helpful information and resources for family caregivers on navigating the healthcare system, communicating with physicians, understanding insurance coverage, supporting self-care and other important topics.

The Caregivers Project and documentary
The Orientation to Caregiving Handbook (PDFs) 
Tools for Caregivers (PDFs)
Links to Cancer Organizations

About the Caregivers Project:

The Caregivers Project also teamed with Open Eye Pictures, an award-winning production company specializing in creative, non-fiction media. Together we created “The Caregivers,” an educational film about caregiving for loved ones with an aggressive form of brain cancer. This documentary recently won the FREDDIE Award from the International Health & Medical Media Awards.

The film follows patients, their family caregivers, and physicians-in-training to reveal the complexities of caregiving, patient-doctor-caregiver communications, and the health care system. The film is meant to raise awareness of the array of challenges faced by family and clinical caregivers, and to initiate alliance among them.

Because this film features the experiences of families and physicians, it has appeal for a broad audience.

  • For health care education, the intended audience includes all clinicians-in-training (medical, nursing, and social work students, and residents) as well as clinician-educators.
  • For family caregivers (independently or in group settings) the film can be used for discussion and to provide insight that might help them in their own roles.
  • For health industry specialists, this film can be used as an internal training tool on interacting with families.
  • For general professional development, the film can be used to educate human resource and employee health specialists about the impact that family caregiving may have on employee well-being.

The Caregivers documentary (2007, 45 min.):

Film highlights:

  • National PBS Broadcast
  • Winner, National Health & Medical Media Awards
  • Used by NASA Occupational Health Specialists
  • Shown in Schwartz Center Rounds

The Caregivers Project began as a collaboration between the Osher Center and the Department of Neurosurgery to help improve the quality of life for both family and physician caregivers, and hence the quality of patient survivorship, by encouraging mutual empathy and respect.


“I just watched the tremendous movie The Caregivers…my dad died of a glioblastoma multiforme while I was in medical school. Having lived the experience both from the caregiver perspective and the medical side, I think you hit just the right balance of showing both the needs of the caregivers and the demands on physicians. This balance gives the movie authenticity and authority with medical people, like me, to strengthen their commitment to caring for patients and caregivers.”

—Alexander K. Smith, MD, MS
Fellow, General Internal Medicine
Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

“I am the Employee Assistance Coordinator with the Occupational Health Program at Stennis Space Center. I remembered being moved by the Caregivers video when it was presented at the NASA Occupational Health Vits but wanted to review it again and did so today. I had the privilege of participating in caregiving for my mother fifteen years ago who died after a long battle with breast cancer. Fortunately, my father, who underwent surgery for colon cancer during her illness, survived and just celebrated his 90th birthday. While time often replaces difficult memories with positive ones, the film certainly took me back to many of the mixed emotions those in the film were having. I do believe it would have been helpful at the time to have seen that these emotions and questions were very normal and been able to share them with other families going through similar situations. As an EAP counselor, I see the benefit of resources to point caregivers to as well as helping supervisors and HR staff understand the demands on time caregiving can bring. Helping employees flex their time or telecommute when they would like to help a family member remain at home or need to accompany them to medical appointments could relieve some of the pressures they feel trying to balance both work and caretaking responsibilities. Thank you for this thought-provoking program.”

—Porter Pryor
Employee Assistance Coordinator,
NASA Occupational Health Program, Stennis Space Center

“Thank you for offering this meeting/summary to family and patients. It was great! Knowledge is so important for a person being treated with a brain tumor. The film shows me you care and change will be imminent. Thank you! The book is perfect! I hope it gets published nationwide.”

—Lynn Young, Family Caregiver, attendee to SNO annual conference 2007

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