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Powerful Tools For Caregivers

More than 800,000 people in Washington  are family caregivers. Nationally that number is 65 million according to the Caregiver Action Network. Yet these big numbers don’t tell the whole story. Caregiving has changed. Advanced medicine and better treatments for chronic illness means that loved ones are experiencing longer lives and richer programmatic opportunities which, in turn, requires sustained caregiving lasting 5 to 10 years or more. Caregivers are being asked to manage complex medical maintenance or navigate the long term care system while simultaneously trying to keep their own lives stable and balanced. It can be overwhelming. One of the strongest caregiver support programs available nationwide is called Powerful Tools for Caregivers.

“I’m one of Powerful Tools’ biggest fans,” social worker and Powerful Tools facilitator Carin Mack confessed. “Powerful Tools is a 6 week free intensive program that offers family caregivers the opportunity to learn new strategies for self care within a caring community,” she said. Classes, held once a week, enhance caregivers’ self-care, emotional balance, coping skills, and confidence. In particular, Mack noted, “The group offers ways to handle some of the most difficult emotions experienced in caregiving such as guilt, depression, anger, frustration and grief. It offers new techniques to handle communication with family and the medical establishment and many tools to handle stress.”

The 6 week sessions, offered periodically in King and surrounding counties, are small enrolling a maximum of 15. In the first class participants “develop a self care action plan,” explained Sally Friedman a trained facilitator who also works in caregiver resources at Seattle’s Senior Services. In each subsequent 2 hour class participants revisit their action plan getting ideas on how to implement and sustain it.  Friedman, herself a family caregiver, says part of her personal self care action plan is to take 15 minutes of “me time” everyday before work to read something she enjoys.

Looking for ways to manage your emotions? Wishing you had more confidence about handling all the unknowns? Wondering how you can manage your increasing caregiving demands? You’re not alone. Join other family caregivers and explore The Powerful Tools program in a “safe group environment…” with “complete acceptance of each person’s situation.”  The resourceful classes “enable you to practice the tools you’re learning” and are entirely focused on YOU. They offer time to consider your role and importance as a caregiver. Importantly, they will help you to cultivate useful communication and coping skills to take back home.

Since the program’s launch 12 years ago over 80,000 caregivers have taken these classes. They are available  in 36 states according to the Powerful Tools website. The next class in the King County Metro area will be presented by Senior Services and Jewish Family Services and held at Southeast Senior Center on Wednesdays 1-3 p.m. beginning January 20th.  Class sizes are small so it’s not too early to register for this free 6 week session. Please call Lisa Bakke to reserve a space at the Southeast Senior Center’s sessions: 206-861-8790. The next class offered in Snohomish County, TAKING CARE OF YOU: POWERFUL TOOLS FOR CAREGIVERS runs January 20-February 24 at the Verdant Wellness Center in Lynnwood. Interested? Contact Ruth Egger at 425-740-3794.

Can’t schedule for Powerful Tools? Work better in one on one settings than groups? I have good news! You can still access helpful and supportive caregiver guidance in King County by calling Senior Services at 206-448-3110. Seattle Senior Services provides free one on one caregiver support and can meet you in your home. Don’t live in King County? Caregiver resources are also offered through Senior Services of Snohomish County. Reach those programs at: 425.355.1112.

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