Classes help caregivers get the support they need in Larimer County

By Shelley Widhalm

The Surveyor

Sometimes caregivers need a little caregiving, so Larimer County Office on Aging will offer two classes focused on self-care.

“Caregivers are notorious for putting their own needs on the back burner,” said Lynette McGowan, caregiver support program coordinator for the Office on Aging. “It’s so important to offer these classes, because it actually gives them tools for self-care. They are convinced that it’s OK to take care of themselves and to at least put their needs on par with the person they’re caring for.”

The no-cost classes, offered through the Office on Aging Caregiver Support Program, in collaboration with other community partners, include Powerful Tools for Caregivers and the Stress-Busting Program for Family Caregivers to help family caregivers take care of themselves and still provide great care. The classes are evidence-based programs that aim to help caregivers improve their self-care behaviors, lower their stress, increase their self-confidence and improve their emotions by reducing anger, guilt, anxiety and depression. They learn how to balance their needs with those of others and address feelings of being overwhelmed and powerless, which can negatively impact their physical and emotional health. 

The first class, Powerful Tools for Caregivers, developed by Legacy Health System’s Caregiver Services Department, will be offered in two 6-week sessions. The first session began Jan. 30 and is close to the class capacity of 15 participants. The second session, which begins Feb. 5, has a few slots available and will meet 10 a.m. to noon every Monday through March 12 at the McKee Wellness Center in Loveland, sponsored by the Seasons Club.

“It is so important because caregivers, so often, feel they are isolated, like they are alone doing what they are doing. … They don’t get out and do things like they used to,” McGowan said. “It gives them immediate support and camaraderie with other caregivers.”

Powerful Tools for Caregivers gives participants 35 self-care tools for caregiving to help avoid burnout, while being a better caregiver. The tools focus on reducing personal stress, changing negative self-talk, communicating needs to family members and healthcare and service providers, dealing with difficult emotions, and making tough caregiving decisions. Participants receive a copy of “The Caregiver Helpbook,” developed specifically for the class.

The second class is nine weeks, the Stress-Busting Program, and is at capacity, with 13 students. The class, which begins Feb. 14, provides caregivers information about stress, particularly stress associated with caregiving, and gives tips on how to deal with stress through relaxation techniques and problem solving. The last 15 minutes of each class is focused on the practice of a relaxation technique, such as guided imagery, aromatherapy, journaling, hand massage, and music therapy. The participants receive several resources, including a handbook covering the class material, a meditation CD, and a relaxation strategies DVD.

“There are a number of tools from each class that really get to attitude and perspective and what’s in their control and what’s not in their control,” McGowan said. “What makes it so hard for these caregivers is life isn’t going back to normal.”

Powerful Tools for Caregivers began in Larimer County 10 years ago, while the Stress-Busting Program is a recent addition that began in summer 2017 to offer additional opportunities for caregivers.

“Like a lot of things, it gives more options to caregivers,” McGowan said. “It can be a second opportunity to take a good class and gain same information and resources.”

Additional sessions of each class will be offered this year, but the times have not been determined.

“The heart of the program is to take care of the self,” McGowan said. “They do better at self-care when they finish these classes.”

For more information about the classes, contact McGowan at lmcgowan@larimer.org or 970-498-7758, or visit the Network of Care website at lcoa.networkofcare.org and go to the Community Announcements tab.

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