Powerful Tools for Caregivers classes begin January 30th

Caregiving often falls upon a family members who are completely unprepared for such an experience. The situations are common to every family: eldercare, serious injury, developmental disability or major illness are just a few of the situations confronting families on a daily basis. The caregiver may be required to give injections, take blood pressure, dole out medication, drive to doctor’s appointments and be awake at odd hours. All of this takes a toll on the caregiver, so much so that some caregivers become seriously ill themselves.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers is an educational program designed to give you 35 helpful tools for caregiving, help you avoid burnout, and be a better caregiver to your loved one. The classes help family caregivers acquire ‘tools’ to reduce stress, balance your life as a caregiver, better communicate your feelings, deal with difficult emotions, and locate helpful resources. larimer.org/humanservices/aging

A county coalition, including the Larimer County Office on Aging is sponsoring two courses this winter. The six-segment courses cover the following issues:

Class #1: Taking Care of You

This class sets the stage for the entire course. It emphasizes that the focus is on “YOU, the caregiver, not on the family member receiving care,” and that caregivers will develop a “box of self-care tools.” The challenges of caregiving and significance of caregiver self-care are dramatized through a video. Beginning in this class, caregivers make a weekly action plan for self-care.

Class #2: Identifying and Reducing Personal Stress

Four steps are presented for effective stress management: (1) Identifying early warning signs, (2) Identifying personal sources of stress, (3) Changing what you can change and accepting what you cannot change, and (4) Taking action. Tools to reduce stress are discussed. Participants learn how to change negative self-talk – which increases stress and erodes confidence – to positive self-talk. Beginning in this class, caregivers learn five relaxation activities that are easy to incorporate into their daily lives.

Class #3: Communicating Feelings, Needs, and Concerns

Participants learn how to communicate their feelings, needs and concerns more effectively by using “I” messages. Through brief dramatizations, participants experience the impact of both “I” messages and “You” messages (which tend to sound blaming and put people on the defensive). They practice changing “You” messages to “I” messages, and identifying when statements beginning with the word “I” are actually “Hidden You” messages.

Class #4: Communicating in Challenging Situations

Participants practice two communication tools – assertiveness and Aikido – which are helpful in difficult situations. They learn a four-step process, called DESC (Describe, Express, Specify, and Consequence) for using the assertive style of communication. With Aikido, participants learn how to align and find “common ground” with a person who is distressed. A segment highlights guidelines for communicating with a person who is memory impaired.

Class #5: Learning From Our Emotions

The overriding theme of this class is “our emotions are messages we need to listen to.” It emphasizes that feelings occur for a reason and that feelings are neither good nor bad. Focus is on identifying constructive ways for dealing with difficult feelings – especially anger, guilt, and depression – and resources for professional help.

Class #6: Mastering Caregiving Decisions

Focus is on the internal emotional process caregivers go through when they experience a life change. Tools for dealing with changes and for making tough decisions – including a seven-step decision-making model and the family meeting – are discussed.

The classes are held in Fort Collins and Loveland. Schedules are as follows:

Fort Collins Elderhous1 p.m. – 3 p.m., [Tuesdays] January 30 – March 6, Elderhaus Adult Day, 6813 S. College Ave., Fort Collins. Call 970-221-0406 to register. elderhaus.org

Loveland10 a.m. – Noon, [Mondays] February 5 – March 12, Seasons Club McKee Wellness Center, 2000 Boise Ave., Loveland. Call 970-820-4097 to register. bannerhealth.com/services/wellness/support/seasons-club

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