Senior agencies team up to offer free course for caregivers

If you are a caregiver and could use some advice and support, be sure to sign up for the Powerful Tools for Caregivers course being taught in Cambridge.

The Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a free six-week course for caregivers. It is an educational program designed to help family caregivers (not professional caregivers).

The class is being coordinated through GracePointe Crossing, Family Pathways and East Central Senior Resource Center. It will be held every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Mill Ridge Terrace at GracePointe Crossing starting Jan. 8 through Feb. 12.

Registrations are limited, so those who are interested in the course should call Jayne Mund at 763-552-3255 or email [email protected], as soon as possible. Workbooks are optional for the course, but may be purchased for $30.

“This is an opportunity to provide help for families who are caring for others,” said Julie Tooker, community relations director for GracePointe Crossing. “Science shows that caregivers are getting lost in the shuffle. With the holidays approaching, we felt now would be a good time to reach out to families.”

Tooker said the course will help caregivers address their personal needs while providing care as a full-time caregiver. Those who are helping a parent, spouse, friend or someone who lives at home, in a nursing home or across the country will benefit from the class.

The class will provide caregivers with the tools to:

• Help reduce stress.

• Communicate effectively with other family members, your doctor and paid help.

• Take care of yourself.

• Set goals and problem solve.

• Reduce guilt, anger and depression.

Jayne Mund, caregiver consultant with the East Central Resource Center, feels caregivers will benefit from the class.

“Caregivers will often think they can do everything by themselves,” Mund said. “This course will help give them structure. When caregivers come into class they are often feeling defeated. I remember one lady in particular who came in weeping and you could tell she was feeling defeated from her body language. As each class continued, I saw her smiling and engaging in the class. At the end of the class, she said she was so excited she had taken the time to go through the course.”

Collette Colucci, senior services coordinator for Family Pathways, said caregivers experience a lot of growth throughout the course.

“When I see caregivers come to this class, they are often slumped over, hesitating and kind of wondering why they are coming to the class — a lot of them are way beyond the point of exhaustion,” Colucci said. “But as we go through the course, they work their way out of that and leave the class with confidence. This course involves sharing stories with the group, and we teach them tools to take care of their loved ones. We express to them that they don’t need to do everything by themselves and teach them to bring families more into the process. We provide them with tools to reach out to their families for support.”

Colucci said when she teaches the course, she often hears from caregivers that they don’t want the course to end.

“At the end of some courses, we develop a support group out of the class so those who want to continue to meet and reach out to one another can do so,” Colucci said. “The first class we ever did we received amazing feedback. Caregivers often say they can’t believe how much they learned in six weeks.”

Colucci explained the course is based on researched science and evidence based on the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program developed by Dr. Kate Lorig and colleagues at Stanford University.

Program principles include making action plans, feedback, solution seeking, modeling, reinterpreting beliefs and thoughts and persuasion.

Class topics include taking care of you, identifying and reducing personal stress; communicating feelings, needs and concerns; communicating in challenging situations; learning from our emotions and mastering care-giving decisions.

“The classes are very proactive and empowering for our caregivers,” Mund said. “Caregivers gain self-confidence and the people teaching the class are very passionate and encouraging.”

Colucci and Mund, who both teach the course, said they have gone through personal experiences which helps them connect with caregivers going through the course.

“We are passionate about what we do, but we also take away so much from the courses as well,” Colucci said. “The caregivers also give us so much. And we also continue with our caregivers throughout their entire journey until the loved one they are caring for passes away. We continue the entire journey with them.”

Mund said besides the focus on caregivers throughout the course, the caregivers attending the course also gain resources.

“Even though Collette, Julie and myself all work for separate agencies, all of our jobs do cross over and we know how to help our clients and refer them to the appropriate people and agencies,” Mund said. “We do all work together to make sure we are getting caregivers the help and resources they need.”

Mund explained the caregivers course was offered about two years ago in Cambridge and felt it was a course that is again needed in the community.

“We still keep in touch with those caregivers from two years ago,” Mund said. “We do follow them through their entire journey.”

Tooker said Mund and Colucci deeply care about caregivers and the services they provide.

“This class is about giving caregivers tools, knowledge and skills,” Tooker said. “This class can help caregiverslearn how to keep their loved ones in their homes longer if that’s what they would like and it’s safe and healthy for them. This course is about making connections, establishing relationships and offering support.”