SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Caregivers need care, too

Maureen Wendt

Millions of Americans are providing care and support for a parent, spouse, friend, or neighbor who needs help because of a limitation in their physical, mental or cognitive functioning. Not enough attention is given to family caregivers who provide 85% of all care to the frail and disabled.

At least 17.7 million individuals in the United States are family caregivers of someone age 65 and older who has a significant impairment. Are you one of them? The circumstances of individual caregivers are extremely varied: They may live nearby or far away from their loved one; they may provide care occasionally, daily, or for a long duration; they may help with household tasks or self-care activities or provide care for complex medical conditions; or they may be responsible for all of these activities.

The impact of caregiving on families cannot be ignored. Current research is finding that taking care of tired caregivers could be as important as providing care for their loved ones.

Caregivers often completely change their lifestyle to take care of those they love. It is well known that caring for a family member with a chronic illness such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, or other diseases is stressful and can take an enormous physical and emotional toll on caregivers.

Are you feeling stretched caring for a loved one? Did you know that over a six-week period you can take part in a training program designed with you, the caregiver in mind? Powerful Tools for Caregivers is an educational series designed to provide you with the tools you need to take care of yourself. You will learn to improve confidence as a caregiver, better communicate, reduce stress, increase your ability to make tough decisions, locate helpful resources and balance your life.

The classes will be offered on Wednesdays beginning August 21st and running through Sept. 25th from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Sessions will be held at The Dale Association, 33 Ontario St., Lockport. Two experienced class leaders will conduct each session. Interactive lessons, discussions and brainstorming will help you take the "tools" you choose and put them into action for your life.

The cost of the six-week program is $25 and includes a copy of The Caregiver Help book, but is covered in full for members of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of WNY and Independent Health. Advance registration is required. Call Erie County Senior Services at (716) 858-2177 or email caregiver@erie.gov for more information and to register.

Additional classes are being scheduled; theses can be found at www2.erie.gov/seniorservices. Powerful Tools for Caregivers is co-sponsored by The University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions and the Erie County Caregiver Coalition.

Maureen A. Wendt is president and CEO of The Dale Association, a non-profit organization that provides senior, mental health, in-home care, caregiver support services and enrichment activities for adults. For more information, call 433-1937 or visit www.daleassociation.com .