Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a six-week course sponsored by the Lee Memorial Health System that begins Jan. 8 at St. John's Episcopal Church on Pine Island.
Each of the six sessions run from 9 a.m noon.
The course is in book form titled "The Caregivers Helpbook" and is designed to provide caregivers with the "tools" to increase their self-care and their confidence to handle difficult situations, reducing personal stress, changing negative self-talk, communicate feelings, ask for help, deal with emotions (anger, guilt, depression), make tough decisions and much more.
Chapter 1 of the course begins with what the coursebook says is the "greatest challenge" taking care of yourself first. In order for any caregiver to give their best, the caregiver must be in good physical and mental health. This is just one of many lessons taught in the upcoming six week course.
Julie Talmage's husband had a major stroke in 2010. Since then he has had five additional strokes plus additional health issues including mini-strokes. Suddenly Talmage found herself as his primary caregiver.
"When this happens to anyone they are in a state of shock," Talmage said. "When you finally come to grips with what's happened, and then you start to realize how much your life has changed you worry about, 'How can I do this?'
"I took this program about two years ago and this program is outstanding," Talmage said. "It really gave me many things to hold on to. When I took the classes I learned that many caregivers feel guilty when they take care of themselves. The first thing you learn is if you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else."
She continued, "The thing I liked about this program is that it is small and intimate. We talked about a lot of things like communication and what resources are available in the area. It helped me to figure out how to deal with something that has come into your life and just changed everything."
"The six-week program begins on Jan. 8 at 9 a.m.," Caryl Regan, parish nurse at St. John's said. "The main focus is learning how to deal with the overwhelming stress this sudden change brings on."
The course is sponsored by the Lee Memorial Health System at a cost of just $30.
At the end of each chapter there is an exercise that helps the caregiver focus on his or her personal situation. At the end of Chapter 1 the exercise is about creating an "Action Plan." The book provides an example and then the caregiver completes their own action plan.
Question: What are you going to do?
Answer: Read a book.
Question: How much are you going to do?
Answer: Half an hour.
Question: When are you going to do it? Answer: Mid afternoon, when my spouse naps.
Question: How often are you going to do it?
Answer: 3 days a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Then every day as the caregiver completes the action they make notes about the benefits they received.
Chapters include: Reducing Personal Stress, Communicating Effectively, Learning from our Emotions, Mastering Caregiver Transitions and Making Tough Decisions, Who are the Caregivers, Spouses and Partners as Caregivers, Long Distance Caregivers, Grandparents as Caregivers, Caregiver Skills, Hiring In-Home Help, Moving, Sensory Changes, Caring for Memory Impaired Elders, Driving Issues and much more.
"This all started for me almost five years ago," Talmage said. "Every day there are always new things that come up and this course gave me the basis to cope with the challenges. It also gave me the basis of knowing that I needed to take care of myself and that I needed to reach out and ask people for help and also where I could find help. Plus, I've found that caregiving is not always about giving everything you get a lot back. This course was a tremendous help to me and I can't recommend it more highly to anyone. The coursebook alone is worth the $30."
The course runs every Wednesday. Register by calling Lee Memorial Health System at 239-343-9224. Scholarships and respite care are available.
The program and takes place: Jan. 8, 15, 22, 29, and Feb. 5, 12.
St. John's Episcopal Church is at 7771 Stringfellow Road on Pine Island.