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Class Helps Family Caregivers Take Care of Themselves
Iowa Ag Connection - 11/08/2019

Over 44 million people provide unpaid assistance and support to older adults. Although they may not consider themselves to be caregivers, they provide services that are essential to the health and well-being of their older family members.

November is National Family Caregivers Month and a good time to recognize the contribution these individuals are making to their families, says Malisa Rader, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Family caregiving often starts with running errands and helping shop or managing legal and financial affairs. It sometimes escalates into more complex or more intimate tasks if the health of the person needing care declines.

"Family caregivers help with household tasks and provide the much-needed emotional support essential for healing and coping with long-term disability, degenerative disease, and chronic or terminal illness," said Rader, who specializes in family life issues.

Some caregivers may provide 24-hour care in their home, while others provide guidance and support via long-distance phone calls and correspondence. Some offer care after work or on weekends; others supplement care in a nursing home or have help from a local hospice organization when caring for a family member.

"National Family Caregivers Month also is an opportunity to remind family caregivers to take care of themselves," Rader added. "Although providing care for aging parents, a spouse or loved one, or other family members can be rewarding, it also can be a stressful responsibility and, at times, overwhelming."

ISU Extension and Outreach offers "Powerful Tools for Caregivers" to help family caregivers find the support they need.

"The nationally acclaimed Powerful Tools for Caregivers program helps individuals learn skills for decreasing stress and restoring balance in their lives," Rader said.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a series of six weekly sessions aimed at helping individuals who are caring for their loved one, family or friends. Classes are offered by certified trainers who conduct the weekly series.

"Caregivers receive tools to help reduce personal stress, communicate better with loved ones and health care professionals, increase their ability to make difficult decisions, and balance their lives better," said Rader. Class participants receive information about local resources and identify solutions to common caregiving problems.

The program provides information, support strategies, communication techniques, stress reduction ideas and resources to assist family caregivers with their concerns related to caregiving.

"If you take good care of yourself, you will be better prepared to take good care of your loved one," Rader said.

Many communities across the state are offering local classes. Check the Powerful Tools for Caregivers website, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/ptc-classes, or contact any ISU Extension and Outreach county office to be directed to an extension human sciences specialist for more information.

A Powerful Tools for Caregivers class leader course is scheduled for March 25-26 in Urbandale. Register at http://bit.ly/ptc13845.

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