SHERIDAN — A family member needs more help with shopping, cleaning, making a meal or managing their checkbook. Sometimes the change is slow. Other times the change is sudden. Whatever the reason, life has changed. The changes also affect their circle of family and friends. A caregiver emerges — often a family member — with the responsibilities for daily care often falling primarily on that one person.
In many cases, caregiving begins at home whether in the care receiver’s own home or in a family member’s home. The reasons range and can be a combination of finances and family values. But the role of caregiving is not something families train for; the learning curve and the responsibilities of caring for a loved one are intense especially when the duties fall primarily on one person. Caregivers emerge in their new role without coping skills.
“Caregivers’ health is susceptible to being compromised,” said Stella Montano. “They become exhausted. It is not unusual for a caregiver to notice that their own health is deteriorating.”
Health effects can include high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, depression, headaches, even possibly a heart attack or a stroke.
Montano is the director of Family Caregiver Support Services at the Sheridan Senior Center. Her programs are available to caregivers of all ages who are caring for a loved one whether a spouse, sibling, parent, friend or grandchild.
Aside from raising a grandchild, caregiving often embraces a range of care for those who have suffered an accident or a debilitating disease. Caregiving can also include caring for a loved one living with a dementia.
So how can one cope in a new role of caregiving? Seek help and seek to understand the changes in your life.
In cooperation with the University of Wyoming, the Sheridan Senior Center is offering a support workshop for caregivers. “Our Family Journey” is a workshop designed by Stanford University to teach caregivers how to cope with the stress of caring for a loved one.
Different from a support group whose agenda is driven by participants, a workshop is designed to guide participants through specific, teachable objectives. Support groups and workshops can complement each other.
“Caregivers who attend support groups agree that the support group is a very important coping tool in their tool box,” said Montano, who facilitates weekly support groups at the Senior Center.
Learning coping tools is one of the objectives of the “Our Family Journey” workshop.
“Any caregiver can benefit from this workshop,” said Montano.
The first five-week workshop began on Oct. 31 for weekly two-hour sessions. Caregivers utilize the services of the Senior Center’s Day Break program for their loved one while they attend the workshop. Day Break offers onsite care for adults who can benefit from supervision during the day while providing respite to their caregiver.
One of the early objectives of the “Our Family Journey” workshop is to guide caregivers to identify all their emotions and to recognize that varied and conflicted feelings are legitimate.
“Caregivers will often feel anger and resentment toward their loved one, toward their family who aren’t helping them, and toward their circumstances,” said Montano. “Then they feel guilty for these feelings. These are all perfectly understandable and normal reactions to a change that has changed the direction of your life.”
Coping skills for caregivers is another objective ranging in topics including dealing with difficult behaviors, communication, problem solving, working together, community resources and relaxation techniques.
“One relaxation technique is for the caregiver to listen to their favorite music while preparing a meal,” said Montano. Sounds simple but not something a caregiver might consider doing for themselves. Many relaxation techniques are short “breaks” in routine that can provide a recharge for the caregiver.
November is National Caregiver Month recognizing the valuable and significant roles of caregivers in our society both socially and financially.
A second workshop is being scheduled. Those interested can contact Stella Montano at 672-2240 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.