By: Hans Petersen, Staff Writer
November is National Family Caregivers Month.
As President Barack Obama has said, “Family caregivers have an immeasurable impact on the lives of those they assist, but their hours are long and their work is hard. Many put their own lives on hold to lift up someone close to them.”
Finding yourself in the role of a caregiver can be an overwhelming experience. Caregivers often find themselves taking on unfamiliar tasks with little experience and limited medical knowledge. It can be an extremely demanding job and many caregivers experience isolation and burnout.
VA’s Caregiver Support Program has developed several educational programs to assist caregivers in developing new skills sets and understanding the importance of self-care which helps avoid “caregiver burnout” and also helps caregivers achieve a sense of balance to their lives.
“Their hours are long and their work is hard.”
Building Better Caregivers™ (BBC) and Caregiver Self-Care Courses are two programs available to caregivers of enrolled Veterans of all eras. They are also available to Veterans who serve in a caregiving role to others such as caring for an aging or disabled spouse or parents, or a disabled child.
Building Better Caregivers™ was developed at Stanford University in conjunction with the National Council on Aging. It’s a six-week online workshop for family caregivers caring for a Veteran with dementia, memory problems, posttraumatic stress disorder, a serious brain injury or any other injury or illness.
The workshops group caregivers together online for each workshop.
An online Alumni Community was also established which allows caregivers to stay connected with each other and continue to receive support through the program following the completion of the six-week course. Caregiver Self-Care Courses offer four educational courses in face-to-face settings, allowing caregivers the opportunity to learn in small groups with other caregivers of Veterans. The courses focus on:
- Managing Stress
- Problem Solving/Effective Communication
- Taking Care of Yourself
- Utilizing Technology
Caregivers can sign up for one class or take all four short courses. Each runs about three hours. Participants receive a workbook for each course to take home and refer back to as needed. In addition to a workbook, a compact disc with relaxation exercises is provided with the Managing Stress course.
Caregivers interested in learning more about these programs can contact the Caregiver Support Coordinator at their nearest VA Medical Center.