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June 15 2018

Caring for caregivers: Free resources help family members manage daily responsibilities

By Laura Armstrong

Nearly one-third of American adults provide care for an ill or disabled relative, according to the American Psychological Association. Most caregivers are female and many also work outside of the home.

Caregivers commonly experience mental and physical health concerns and strains involving work, finances, relationships, quality of life, care decision-making and finding and engaging resources such as housing and respite care for loved ones. Unfortunately, the care they provide and the toll it can take on their well-being often goes unnoticed or unacknowledged.

Self-management education can be transformative for people juggling caregiving and other responsibilities. Education gives people techniques and community contacts to help solve problems and improve daily life for the caregiver, loved one and family members. Skills learned in self-management workshops provide practical approaches to alleviate stressors that once seemed insurmountable.

When caregivers learn about self-management in a group, they can exchange tips and share experiences with others who understand what they are going through. Strategizing about home safety modifications, in-home help, respite care, transportation options and affordable ways to obtain medical equipment can make all the difference to caregivers and their families. 

Self-management education also provides ways for caregivers to:

  • Set goals and create action plans.

  • Manage stressful emotions and situations.

  • Communicate effectively with family members, health professionals and others.

  • Learn how to practice self-care and why it’s important to do so.

Caregivers need to care for themselves in order to be effective when caring for others. Education can help them understand that self-care is not selfish, and should be personalized. For example, journaling or yoga might help one person to relieve stress, while someone else may prefer listening to music or taking a daily run.

Free education and support is available locally for people whose loved ones are ill or have special needs. The American Cancer Society in Pewaukee, Easterseals Southeast Wisconsin in Waukesha, Wisconsin Parkinson Association in Milwaukee, and other organizations offer resources for caregivers.

In addition, ProHealth Care provides dozens of programs and support groups for caregivers, many in partnership with organizations such as the Aging & Disability Resource Center of Waukesha County and the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging.

Community members can register at ProHealthCare.org/Classes or by calling 262-928-2745.

A new federal law addresses gaps in knowledge and support for caregivers. The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act aims for a national public-private strategy for education, training, services and policies that alleviate caregiving challenges. A working group has been created to identify the first steps in the strategy.

Even after a national strategy is put into place, local educational programs will continue to be the first line of support for people managing the demands of providing family care.

Laura Armstrong is the evidence-based program coordinator for ProHealth Care’s community education team. ProHealth offers free educational resources for caregivers on an ongoing basis. Visit ProHealthCare.org/Classes and use the keyword search box to find information about support groups and classes for caregivers.

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For more than a century, ProHealth Care has been the health care leader in Waukesha County and surrounding areas, providing outstanding care across a full spectrum of services. The people of ProHealth Care strive to continuously improve the health and well-being of the community by combining skill, compassion and innovation. The ProHealth family includes ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Rehabilitation Hospital of Wisconsin, ProHealth Medical Group, the UW Cancer Center at ProHealth Care, Moreland Surgery Center, ProHealth AngelsGrace Hospice, ProHealth Home Care, ProHealth West Wood Health & Fitness Center and ProHealth Regency Senior Communities. Learn more at ProHealthCare.org.