Seminar to care for the caregiver

BLUE EARTH – Taking care of an elderly person is stressful. Interfaith Caregivers wants to help.

It is offering “Powerful Tools for Caregivers,” a six-week seminar, from 1-3 p.m. Thursdays, from Feb. 28 through April 4, at Grace Lutheran Church in Fairmont.

There is a suggested $25 donation and pre-registration is required so the proper number of materials will be available.

“We’ll talk about the importance of caregivers taking care of themselves, which enables them to continue to be good caregivers,” said Merry McGowen, Interfaith’s caregiver consultant in Faribault County.

“In each of the six sessions, we concentrate on different topics,” said Joanne Hansen, Interfaith’s caregiver consultant in Martin County.

“Powerful Tools for Caregivers” is a national program designed and tested by experts. McGowen and Hansen received training to teach it.

More and more people are finding themselves as caregivers for an elderly adult, whether it is their husband or wife, parent or another relative. Many believe it won’t be difficult – after all, they raised kids, they know how to take care of someone else.

But it’s not the same, say McGowen and Hansen, because children do more for themselves as they age, whereas elderly people deteriorate and the caregiver will wind up doing more for them. McGowen likened it to a “boiled frog,” in which a frog in a pot of warming water is eventually boiled to death without realizing it, because it acclimates to the slowly rising temperature. Caregivers acclimate themselves as they slowly take on more and more, and take care of themselves less and less.

“Many times they get ill before the care receiver,” Hansen said. “They’re so busy they neglect to take care of their own needs, like doctor’s appointments.”

Caregivers will manifest stress in different ways, with physical and emotional warning signs, including exhaustion, feeling helpless or hopeless, or feeling overwhelmed.

“Everybody’s warning signs are individual,” McGowen said. “What we do in the class is help identify what the warning signs are for you.”

People can feel free to share what they’re going through because confidentiality will be honored, Hansen said.

“Hopefully, this class can help people work through the signs and let them know they are not alone,” she said.

“Sometimes that is the most important thing, is knowing there are other people out there,” McGowen said. “One of the most important things for caregivers is to get support from groups, classes, family, friends they can trust.”

The two can help connect caregivers to organizations that deal specifically with diseases and conditions. McGowen mentioned home health, private care and nursing homes.

“You’d be surprised how many people don’t think they are ready for that help,” Hansen said.

“When you’re in a stressful situation, you can’t see beyond it,” McGowen said. “You’re too caught up in the situation to know where to start.”

Anyone interested in attending the Powerful Tools for Caregivers seminar may call Hansen at (507) 235-8664 or McGowen at (507) 526-4684.