Take a breath
If you’re a caregiver, there’s a very good chance you take care of your loved one first and think of yourself last. However, as anyone who’s been on a flight somewhere will tell you, when the oxygen mask drops from the overhead you’re supposed to take breath yourself before you try to help someone else. The same applies to caregiving; this isn’t the time to stop taking care of yourself. Solutions for ways to find ways to take time for yourself and be more efficient as a caregiver may be as close as two classes being taught by the Area Agency on Aging 1-B (AAA 1-B).
Creating Confident Caregivers®
The first class is for caregivers looking after a loved one with a dementia-related illness. Creating Confident Caregivers® (CCC) classes are free, and this training has been proven to reduce caregiver stress by empowering caregivers with useful tools and information. It consists of six two-hour classes with all materials provided by the AAA 1-B. Class is limited to 12 people; however, up to three members from one family can attend together. Respite care for the loved one with dementia is often available free of charge.
Norma and April took the CCC classes. They’ve been caring for Norma’s sister and April’s mother—Alice.
Norma was the first one to take the class. She went looking for any help she might get as she cared for her sister. Norma learned about the stages of dementia, caregiver stress, and coping tactics for certain situations. Each week after class she talked with her niece, who was out of the country at the time for work, and shared what she learned. Norma felt the class “…lifted a weight off my shoulder.” When April came home, she signed up.
In class, April learned she could make things easier for her mom by labeling things. This helped to eliminate some of her mom’s frustration she couldn’t think of words for things. That solution is working now. “The class teaches you to be prepared with strategies. You know what’s needed, like offering help or giving simple choices.”
They also learned they’re not alone in this journey; there is support. It’s not a support group, but they talked with other caregivers and learned what’s worked for them. There are videos, strategizing, dialogue and resources to keep. “They give you a list of resources in the community, as well as a book.” When April has questions, she pulls out that book.
This class gives you the tools you need to understand, plan and cope with the unique challenges of a caregiver of loved one with dementia. “They taught us that it (Alzheimer’s disease) is not just about memory but judgement, and what’s happening to the brain,” said April. It helped her to understand better the different stages, helped her know what to expect, and offered helpful, practical solutions.
Another reason to attend this class is because caregivers of those with dementia are significantly more likely to have health problems compared to someone caring for a loved one without dementia. Both have stress and many challenges, but theirs can be especially difficult.
Powerful Tools for Caregivers (PTC)
In addition to the CCC class, there’s a new class that will benefit any caregiver; it’s called Powerful Tools for Caregivers (PTC). Like the CCC classes, it meets once a week for six weeks for ninety minutes. Class size is also limited and there’s respite care if needed. What’s different about this class is the focus is entirely on the caregiver. The PTC classes focus on ways caregivers can take better care of themselves; relax and reduce stress; reduce guilt, anger and depression; communicate more effectively with family and medical staff; make tough decisions; problem solve; and be aware of community resources.
Each session begins with a follow-up on last week’s homework and ends with a relaxing visualization session. In between, there’s a lesson directed at the practical needs of the caregiver—along with group discussion about how they might apply what they’ve learned in real-life.
You’re not in this alone
As a caregiver, you might consider a good day one that’s tiring but where you feel a sense of accomplishment or have quality time with your loved one. A bad day may be one that’s exhausting and frustrating. These classes may not have all the answers, but they have many, and they just might help you have more good days. Call 800-852-7795 to register for either of these classes, or look on the site under Classes for Caregivers.