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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

Learning to look after yourself

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May 9, 2016, by Pat Morden, Caregiver Exchange

Learning to look after yourself “Caregiving doesn’t come with a training manual.”

That’s how Jenny Hardy explains the introduction of a new eight-week course for caregivers 55 years and older. The course will be offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) at several locations in Toronto.

The caregiver course is based on Living Life to the Full, a course developed in the U.K. by Dr. Chris Williams to meet the needs of people with anxiety and depression in the mild to moderate range. It uses the principles of cognitive behavior
therapy (CBT) in a fun, interactive way. “CBT is based on the understanding that thoughts, emotions, physical feelings, and behaviors are all intertwined,” explains Hardy, program manager of the caregiver course. “It’s not always what happens to you but how you react to it that impacts how you feel.”

Living Life to the Full was brought to Canada by CMHA, and has been adapted for youth and senior populations. As part of a larger program addressing caregiver issues, CMHA is now offering Living Life to the Full for Older Adult Caregivers free of charge in the Toronto area. Courses will be delivered for three years in Community Health Centres, older adult centres, Toronto Community Housing buildings, and other community agencies in various neighbourhoods. 

“This program recognizes the value and importance of caregivers,” says Hardy. “It will build capacity in them. It will also help them to see that they’re not alone – that caregiving is hard and it’s natural to feel sad, anxious and guilty. And it will show them ways they can take more control of their lives.”

When the project is complete, the course will be evaluated, and feedback from participants will be used to make modifications. Then the results will be shared. Hardy hopes that other CMHA chapters will eventually introduce the course.

For caregivers in Toronto, several courses are already listed at www.ontario.cmha.ca/caregivers-toronto and more will be added in the months ahead.