Time is running out for family caregivers to sign up for an educational series aimed at providing them with the tools needed to take care of themselves.
Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a six-week course that kicks off Thursday and runs through May 23. The classes will take place every Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Lake Kennedy Senior Center, at 400 Santa Barbara Blvd.
The class size is limited and pre-registration is required. As of Tuesday, several spaces were still available for those interested in signing up.
"It is an educational tool to teach appropriate self care to those who are caring for others," Sunny Kozak, manager with Lee Physician Group, said. "If you're not your best, you're not caring for them as well as you could be."
The series has been 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.
"This is the third year that Lee Memorial has done this class," she said, adding that the series is offered year-round throughout Lee County.
"This year, we're aiming to do 10," Kozak added.
The series is free to attendees, but a $30 donation is suggested to help defray the cost of the workbook, which is titled "The Caregiver Helpbook." Participants are allowed to keep their book for use as a future resource.
"They actually work in it each week," she said.
The series covers reducing personal stress, changing negative self talk, communicating effectively with family and health care providers and more. It covers balancing life and increasing the ability to make tough decisions.
Kozak pointed out that studies have shown that caregivers for others tend to neglect themselves in order to focus their attention on their loved one.
"It's teaching healthy self care," she said of the class. "To help them be better personally, so they can care for their loved one better."
"It's actually a nationwide evidence-based program," Kozak added.
The series also helps caregivers locate helpful resources.
"You're not alone," she said. "There are a lot of community resources."
The course involves interactive lessons, discussions and brainstorming. Attendees even start to establish a support network with their peers.
"Other times, they keep those ties going which is often a healthy step," Kozak said.
She called the class a way for caregivers to rediscover themselves.
"You forfeit yourself to take care of that person you love," Kozak said. "People leaving the class leave with a feeling of empowerment."
Caregivers for seniors - those over the age of 60 - suffering from a "chronic illness" are the target group for the course. Chronic Illnesses can include Alzheimer's and dementia, to multiple sclerosis, cancer or COPD.
If needed, special discounts for one-on-one home care and adult day stay care are available during class for participants' loved ones. The discounts range from approximately 25 percent to 30 percent, according to Kozak.
The adult day stay is supervision by qualified, licensed and/or certified individuals for four hours, including meals. Staff ratio is typically 1-to-6.
The one-on-one home care includes companionship, safety and supervision, along with light housekeeping, meal preparation, shopping and transportation to medical appointments. Kozak noted that the shifts are also four hours.
"That's for people who are homebound, either physically or mentally," she said.
For more information about Powerful Tools for Caregivers and the special discounts for participants or to register, contact (239) 343-9221.