Gifford, Council on Aging Offering Free Caregiver Classes, Support

caregiver supportRANDOLPH – There are an estimated 64,000 home caregivers in Vermont – those who care for a loved one or friend at home rather than relying on a home health agency or nursing home.

Gifford Medical Center’s Blueprint Care Coordination Team is collaborating with the Central Vermont Council on Aging to offer advice and peer support to home caregivers who often selflessly work long, stressful hours.

Over the coming months, Gifford will offer a one-night course called “5 Minutes for Yourself.” The class will be led by Samantha Medved, Gifford’s Blueprint behavioral health clinician and a licensed social worker.

“The class is really designed to identify why caregivers need to take five minutes for themselves, and we’ll also talk about how to find that time during the day.”

The class will be offered on Aug. 20 from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Gifford in Randolph and from 5:30-7 p.m. on the following days and locations: on Aug. 23 at the Chelsea Health Center, on Aug. 28 at the Bethel Health Center, on Sept. 4 at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin, and on Sept. 13 at Gifford.

Participants need only take one of the classes, which will cover identifying stress in the caregiver role, how taking time for oneself can improve the caregiver’s ability to provide care, breathing techniques, how to find that “me time” and what activities to do during that time.

The class will be followed up by a six-week course from Jeanne Kern of the Central Vermont Council on Aging called “Powerful Tools for Caregivers” and running Wednesdays, Sept. 5-Oct. 10 from 3-5 p.m. at the Council on Aging at 59 N. Main St., Suite 200, in Barre.

The six-week workshop is also anticipated to be offered in Randolph in the fall with Kern and Brooks Chapin, a nurse and Gifford’s director of senior services.

caregiver supportThe educational workshop is designed to help family caregivers take care of themselves while caring for a relative or friend. Participants will learn ways to reduce stress; communicate effectively; reduce guilt, anger and depression; set goals; and problem solve.

And finally, Gifford is planning ongoing, community-based support groups for caregivers beginning in September. The participant-run groups will be offered based on participants’ interest and availability.

The goal of all of the programs is to support caregivers and the vital, challenging role they play.

“Caregivers typically are caring for people they really love and are allowing those people to continue to live in their homes, with their families and in their communities.

Simultaneously, it’s a very hard and under-recognized role,” Medved said. “What we know is healthier caregivers provide healthier care, so we want to make sure we assist caregivers in being as healthy and happy as possible.”

To register for any of the upcoming “5 Minutes for Yourself” classes or to express interest in joining a support group, call Gifford’s Blueprint office at 728-7100, ext. 6. The class is free and light refreshments will be served.

To sign up for “Powerful Tools for Caregivers,” call Kern at the Council on Aging at (802) 476-2671. A $20 donation is suggested to help cover the cost of the course book that participants receive.

Participants need not be full-time caregivers. Anyone who helps support a loved one, such as through decision-making, providing transportation, or serving as a primary family support person is welcome.

Gifford also holds a monthly support group for those with chronic illnesses called the Chronic HealthShare Consortium. These free meetings continue on the second Wednesday of each month from 3-4 p.m.

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