Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Powerful Class for Caregivers

I just did something really good for myself and wanted to tell you about it. There's a terrific support organization in my area called The Alzheimer's Project, Inc. Here's their mission:
The Alzheimer's Project, Inc. (APT) exists to provide comfort, support, and assistance to persons with memory disorders and their caregivers. APT is committed to serving the Big Bend community of Florida through education and training, in-home respite, support groups, counseling, referral to community resources, and pro-active recovery of wanderers through the Project Lifesaver program.

The Alzheimer's Project is a non-profit organization funded by grants and donations. The Alzheimer's Project is dedicated to providing relief to the caregivers of persons suffering from Alzheimer's Disease or other memory impairments. ALL services available to the caregivers are provided FREE of charge.

The goal of The Alzheimer's Project is to keep caregivers healthier, both physically and emotionally, to prolong the abilities of caregivers, and to delay institutionalization of the patients.

One of the free events APT hosts a couple of times each year is the Powerful Tools for Caregivers class. It's a six-week class that lasts 2-3 hours on one day each week, and I actually managed to attend five of the six classes. (Mama developed pneumonia during that time and was hospitalized for a week.) The three APT advocates who taught the class, Brooks Johnson, Recie Culpepper, and Elaine McConnaughhay, have been or are caregivers, and they get it. All three are dedicated to helping caregivers in every area of concern or need, and they do it with great empathy and care.

Now keep in mind, I don't love going to classes because it's just one more thing to schedule into an already full week. However, I can't tell you how glad I am that I made myself go. Not only were the materials extremely useful to me for better problem-solving and stress-reduction, but I also became friends with several terrific caregivers who attended.

One of the things we did each week was to fill out an Action Plan. We had to tell our classmates what our plan was for the next week, how often we were going to do it, and what our confidence level was that we'd actually complete it. As a class, we planned to tackle a variety of personal de-stressing resolutions. Some of us chose "me-time" such as exercise, reading, manicures and pedicures, massages, gardening, or getting away for the weekend. Some of the Action Plans were practical things like finishing taxes, deciding what was needed to sell a house and downsize, or talking to estate attorneys regarding our care-receiver's needs.

Personally, I started reading for fun every day, which is a powerful de-stressor for me. I hadn't consistently picked up any fiction in quite awhile, but now I read at least a chapter each day. My favorite Action Plan, however, was that my husband and I have started our "date days" again. During the past four-plus years of caregiving and all of the other distractions of normal day-to-day living, we'd let our dates slide. Our "me-time" had devolved into watching television together for an hour or so on as many evenings as possible, and that was all; we had basically become two ships passing in our home. My husband now enjoys planning our dates, and we head out at least one afternoon or evening each week just to have a little adventure together. It has been a breath of fresh air and very good medicine for both of us, plus there's a new synergy in our home simply because we're doing something positive for ourselves.

My final PTFC Action Plan is to attend a new support group for Active Caregivers, beginning this week. Several of my classmates have been members of this support group for awhile, and I'm looking forward to catching up with them. They've been a tremendous blessing and encouragement to me, and their caregiving wisdom is deep and abundant.

If you have any opportunity to find a caregiver support group, I can't recommend it enough. It's worth the effort, and it can bless your socks off.

If you'd like to learn more about The Alzheimer's Project, Inc., click here:

If you have ideas or tried-and-true methods of de-stressing and helping encourage yourself as a caregiver, I'd love to hear them. Please tell me what you know; we'll all benefit!

Caregiver at Home

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