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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

Powerful Tools for Caregivers provides a safe space to learn and practise crucial skills

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January 4, 2019, by Paul Cavanagh, caregiverexchange.ca

Most family caregivers aren’t prepared for the responsibilities they take on. They do their best in the face of uncertain (often shifting) expectations. Many struggle on without any sort of training. 
 
Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a free, six-week workshop series that teaches practical caregiving skills and provides participants with a safe place to test them out. The program is offered at various locations in Ontario.
 
Each week, a new skill is covered. After practising the skill in-class, each participant is asked to try using it in real life and report back to the group the following week. Workshop co-leaders are there to make sure everyone is set up to succeed.
 
For instance, after learning how to communicate in challenging situations, participants watch the workshop co-leaders demonstrate how to turn a conversation around so that the person you’re talking with isn’t offended and the conversation doesn’t get shut down. Then participants practice with one another. Before leaving, they each make a concrete plan for applying the technique to their own circumstances.
 
At the beginning of the next week’s session, everyone checks in. If someone had difficulty carrying through on an action plan from the previous week, the group helps the individual troubleshoot. 
 
“Caregiving is a very isolating experience” says Brenda Blais-Nesbitt, a workshop co-leader and caregiver for her 25 year-old daughter. “Sessions provide a safe space where [family caregivers] can express their feelings, what they’re going through, what they’re experiencing. There’s no judgement. There’s understanding. And it’s invaluable to speak to others who have the knowledge and understanding of what it is like.”
 
Elizabeth Hardy, a social worker who co-leads Powerful Tools with Brenda, admits that many family caregivers don’t think they can commit to a six-week workshop. Some can’t even think further than two days ahead.
 
But what she hears from people who attend Powerful Tools is: “Oh my gosh, this was life-changing! I thought it was too big of a thing to do, but now that I’m in it, I’m so glad that I made a path for this to happen.”
 
And it’s not because the facilitators are so amazing, she says. “The magic happens because the group shows up, and people start to talk, and they externalize the stuff that’s eating them up on the inside and that they can’t talk to anyone else about.”
 
Sessions build on each other from week to week. Topics covered include:
 
  • Taking care of you
  • Identifying and reducing personal stress
  • Communicating feelings, needs, and concerns
  • Communicating in challenging situations
  • Learning from our emotions
  • Mastering caregiving decisions
 
You can look for Powerful Tools for Caregivers workshops in your part of Ontario by clicking on the Events tab in our menu bar and entering your location.
 
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