More than half of family and friends who are caregivers to people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; more than one-third report symptoms of depression.

Because of the physical and emotional toll of caregiving, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $9.1 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2012, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Area Agency on Aging of Central Texas is offering a free program from 9:30 to 11 a.m. on nine consecutive Tuesdays, beginning Jan. 21 at Stoney Brook, 500 River Fair Blvd., in Belton.

The Stress-Busting Program for Family Caregivers focuses on education, support, problem-solving and stress management. A group of four to eight caregivers will be taught by two facilitators.

“The job of the family caregiver is basically a 24/7 job and there’s a high burnout rate among the caregivers of people with dementia,” said Walter Langford, wellness programs educator for the Area Agency on Aging and facilitator for the stress busting class.

The program will offer tools the caregiver can employ to relieve some of the stress, Langford said.

Because the class is kept small, those who attend get to know each other and establish bonds.

“Collectively they know more than any of the facilitators and a lot of times they learn from one another,” Langford said.

Since this is the first time the program has been offered in the area, Langford said he hopes the Area Agency on Aging will eventually be able to partner with home health agencies and churches that might want to have people in their organizations and congregations trained to teach the program.

“If that happens, we can obviously broaden our reach,” he said.

The class takes a holistic approach to addressing the emotional, physical, spiritual and cognitive needs of the caregivers.

“The participants will get specific methods of stress-relief techniques,” said Thom Wilson, external program educator for the Area Agency on Aging.

Class content includes stress and relaxation; dealing with challenging behaviors; grief, loss and depression; coping with stress; positive thinking; taking time for yourself, and choosing a path of wellness.

Stress management techniques to be taught are relaxation breathing, imagery, meditation, art, music and journaling.

The students will receive a relaxation DVD so they can practice meditation exercises.

While being trained to become a facilitator in the program, Wilson said, he heard a caregiver talk about how she used massage on her husband to lower his stress.

“She then taught her husband how to do it and he used it on her to help her relax,” he said.

Reservations for Stress Busting Program for Family Caregivers are required. For information, call the Area Agency on Aging at 254-770-2334 or 800-447-7169.

(1) comment

Max Wallack

I believe it is important for children to understand Alzheimer's disease so they can still interact lovingly with family members who have this disease. I am a 17 year old college junior, Alzheimer's researcher, and Alzheimer's advocate.I grew up as a caregiver to my great grandmother who had Alzheimer's disease. After her death, I founded a nonprofit organization that has distributed over 27,000 puzzles to Alzheimer's facilities. Recently, the book I coauthored explaining Alzheimer's disease to children became available on Amazon.My hope was to provide some helpful coping mechanisms to the many children dealing with Alzheimer's disease among their family members. 50 percent of the profits from this book will go to Alzheimer's causes. I think this book could help a lot of children and families."Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in Refrigerator? A Book Explaining Alzheimer's Disease to Children."

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