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Powerful Tools for Caregivers series to be offered at St. John’s Episcopal Church

January 9, 2013
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Pine Island Eagle

A six-week educational series will be held in St. James City beginning Jan. 14 to provide caregivers with the right tools to take care of themselves.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers is made available through a grant from the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and Senior Choices of Southwest Florida in collaboration with Lee Memorial Health System and the CARE Program.

St. John's Episcopal Church Parish Nurse Caryle Regan, RN, who is affiliated with the Parish Nurse Network, said her chapter is led by Lee Memorial. She said there are about 25-30 parish nurses in Lee County that gather and talk about all the programs in the area, which is how she stumbled across the Powerful Tools for Caregivers series.

St. John's Episcopal Church held the series last year and received a really good response from those who took the class.

"The response from the people that had taken the class was phenomenal," Regan said, which is why she decided she was bringing it back to the island. "It's a great class."

The class is important for the island, she said, because of the number of people who are caring for someone else, whether it is their spouse, sons and daughters or a friend.

Fact Box

If You Go

What: Powerful Tools for


When: Monday, Jan. 14, from

1-4 p.m. (six weeks)

Where: St. John's Episcopal

Church, 7771 Stringfellow Road

in St. James City

Pre-register: 239-343-9221

"I know the stress that caregivers are under," Regan said, due to the members of the church. "The caregivers are so focused on caring for their loved one, they forget to take care of themselves."

She went on to say that the caregiver often times do not realize how much the stress factor is affecting them. Unfortunately, Regan said, when the caregiver does not take care of himself or herself, he or she becomes sick.

"Then what happens to the family," she said.

Sunny Kozak, operation manager for Lee Physicians Group Memory Care, said Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a standardized course that offers the same curriculum whether you are in Florida or another state. She said each week builds upon the previous week's class to help caregivers manage their everyday stressors in caring for someone with any kind of chronic illness.

Kozak said the class helps the caregiver break down what they are doing, as well as help them figure out how to change.

The class is based off of the textbook, "The Caregiver Helpbook." A $25 donation is requested to help defray the cost of the book.

Kozak said each participant receives the book to take home, which includes assignments that caregivers can do. One of the assignments involves picking an activity that can be done every day or once a week to help manage stress.

The assignments, she said, help the caregivers make time for themselves by making a specific action plan.

"You can't care for others until you care for yourself," Kozak said, adding that if a caregiver does not take care of herself or himself, over time it will hurt their loved ones.

The text book also helps the caregivers ask themselves questions of what and why something is bothering them, as well as what they can do to change the mood. Kozak said it is about setting obtainable and realistic goals.

She said the assignment will also ask the caregivers to predict their confidence level of completion of how likely they are going to finish their action plan.

The class, which has historically been offered in multiple counties, is solely being focused within Lee County this year.

Kozak said the class provides a network of support at the end of six weeks because you are sitting next to the same person throughout the session.

"You form a relationship with them," she said, adding that if someone is experiencing a really rough day, they can call that individual for tactics and strategies to work out problems. "It gives you someone close to home to rely on."

Kozak said everyone brings their experience to the table during the class, which can benefit someone else because that individual can share how he or she overcame that obstacle with others.

Those experiences also help the two experienced class leaders, who conduct the series, as they can take the examples to other group sessions to further help other caregivers.

The class leaders, many of which whom are caregivers themselves, have successfully applied the techniques they teach.

Kozak said the leaders tend to pick up a lot of useful knowledge during the series.

The classes will be held at St. John's Episcopal Church, which is located at 7771 Stringfellow Road in St. James City. The sessions, which will run for six consecutive Mondays, will begin on Jan. 14 from 1-4 p.m.

The class size is limited and pre-registration is required by calling 239-343-9221.

The class is also being co-sponsored by the Beacon of H.O.P.E. and United Way.



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