My parents live in northern Arizona. Although they have three grown children, they live alone with thousands of miles between them and their closest family member. This didn’t happen by design. It just happened as our lives unfolded.
My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago, and my mother is his sole caregiver. She is doing an amazing job, but the stress of everything gets to her sometimes.
Family members who take on the caregiving role are often under a lot of stress — usually for a long time. When dementia caregivers are compared with people like them who are not caregivers, the potential perils of the situation are clear. Dementia caregivers are:
Twice as likely to have health and mental health problems.
Two-and-a-half times as likely to be taking medicine for their nerves.
Only half as likely to seek medical help for their problems.
More likely to feel cut off from their family and friends.
More likely to be pinched financially.
There is an evidence-based workshop available nationwide called the Savvy Caregiver for family and friends who are active caregivers, caring for those living with Alzheimer’s or related dementias. I am watching the schedules in Arizona and hoping that a session becomes available in my parents’ neighborhood.
On the North Shore, the Savvy Caregiver six-week workshop will be held beginning on Sept. 6 at SeniorCare’s office at 49 Blackburn Center in Gloucester. The workshop is free, thanks to funding from the Administration for Community Living in collaboration with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs and Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley.
The Savvy Caregiver program is built on the notion that the successful caregiver has three main tasks:
Manage daily life with the person.
Find and use help with caregiving tasks.
Take care of yourself.
The program offers help for caregivers with two frequent problems:
Disagreements. Sometimes, family members and friends disagree with the caregiver about what’s going on. The program seeks to help all gain a better understanding of the situation and join together in helping the family member with dementia.
Help. Sometimes, family members and friends don’t know help is needed. Often, they don’t know what help to give or how to give it. The Savvy Caregivers program knows the many different tasks involved in caregiving. Its representatives are better able to decide which parts others might play and to instruct others in how to perform those tasks.
Being savvy about caregiving won’t stop the course of what the caregiver is dealing with or make it go away. Savvy caregiving won’t mean there will be no stress in the day-to-day or the long-term situation with which they are dealing. But, savvy caregiving can enable a person to develop a sense of control or mastery. It can help them find ways to reduce the effects of caregiving stress and to increase their sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
This program is designed to expand a caregiver’s knowledge and skills. The most important outcome, though, should be that the caregiver will feel more confident of their ability to carry out the role they have taken on.
For more information about or to register for the Savvy Caregiver workshop, contact Beverly Flanagan at 978-281-1750. Advance registration for the workshop is required.
Tracy Arabian is the communications officer at SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann’s local area agency on aging.