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Powerful Tools for Caregivers Class Description

Learn about what this class offers and when it's available.

Caregiver Support Classes

Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a class series designed to help family caregivers take better care of themselves while caring for a family member or friend. Classes are taught at different locations around the United States, as well as in Canada and Korea.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers (PTC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. The national PTC office is located in Portland, Oregon and supports caregivers, Class Leaders, and Master Trainers around the country.

Materials were developed over 3 years of pilot testing, refinement and evaluative research to assess the program’s effectiveness. Initiated through grant funding, the program has been offered since 1998. Originally developed to reach caregivers of adults with chronic conditions, Powerful Tools for Caregivers has expanded the program to include classes for parents of children with special needs.

PTC is based on the highly successful Chronic Disease Self-Management Program developed by Dr. Kate Lorig and her colleagues at Stanford University. Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a national program sustained by extensive collaborations with community-based organizations.

In the years since the program began, a great deal of research, evaluation and revision has been done to ensure its continued value and success. The 6-week PTC class has been shown to have a positive impact on caregiver health for a diverse group of caregivers including rural, ethnic minorities, adult children of aging parents, well-spouses/partners, caregivers at differing stages in their caregiving role, living situations, financial and educational backgrounds. The PTC program is available in English, Spanish, and Korean. Data from class participant evaluations indicates the PTC program improves:

  • Self-Care Behaviors: (increased exercise, use of relaxation techniques and medical check-ups.)
  • Management of Emotions: (reduced guilt, anger, and depression.)
  • Self-efficacy (increased confidence in coping with caregiving demands.)
  • Use of Community Resources: (increased utilization of community services.)

In 2012 the Powerful Tools for Caregivers program was deemed to have met the highest-level criteria of evidence-based disease prevention and health promotion programs by the Administration for Community Living/Administration on Aging.

Class Descriptions

As the series progresses, the six classes build on each other.

This class sets the stage for the entire course. It emphasizes that the focus is on “YOU, the caregiver, not on the family member receiving care,” and that caregivers will develop a “box of self-care tools.” The challenges of caregiving and significance of caregiver self-care are dramatized through a video. Beginning in this class, caregivers make a weekly action plan for self-care.

Four steps are presented for effective stress management: (1) Identifying early warning signs, (2) Identifying personal sources of stress, (3) Changing what you can change and accepting what you cannot change, and (4) Taking action. Tools to reduce stress are discussed. Participants learn how to change negative self-talk – which increases stress and erodes confidence – to positive self-talk. Beginning in this class, caregivers learn five relaxation activities that are easy to incorporate into their daily lives.

Participants learn how to communicate their feelings, needs and concerns more effectively by using “I” messages. Through brief dramatizations, participants experience the impact of both “I” messages and “You” messages (which tend to sound blaming and put people on the defensive). They practice changing “You” messages to “I” messages, and identifying when statements beginning with the word “I” are actually “Hidden You” messages.

Participants practice two communication tools – assertiveness and Aikido – which are helpful in difficult situations. They learn a four-step process, called DESC (Describe, Express, Specify, and Consequence) for using the assertive style of communication. With Aikido, participants learn how to align and find “common ground” with a person who is distressed. A segment highlights guidelines for communicating with a person who is memory impaired.

The overriding theme of this class is “our emotions are messages we need to listen to.” It emphasizes that feelings occur for a reason and that feelings are neither good nor bad. Focus is on identifying constructive ways for dealing with difficult feelings – especially anger, guilt, and depression – and resources for professional help.

Focus is on the internal emotional process caregivers go through when they experience a life change. Tools for dealing with changes and for making tough decisions – including a decision-making model and the family meeting – are discussed.

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