KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – David Wilson didn’t know what to expect when he enrolled in a Cabarrus County Department of Human Services course called Powerful Tools for Caregivers.
After the Kannapolis resident was appointed as caregiver for his mother, he knew he needed to learn all he could. He had no idea the six-part course would completely change his outlook, he says.
The newfound knowledge was instrumental in helping Wilson understand the importance of caring for himself while caring for his mother, he says. That lesson is so important that it’s covered in the first chapter of the course text, “The Caregiver’s Helpbook.”
“Everybody’s going through ups and downs when it comes to being a caregiver,” Wilson says. “And now I know that it’s crucial that I take care of myself.”
Wilson’s situation is far from rare. There are 40.4 million unpaid caregivers of adults ages 65 and older in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center. Of those, 44 percent are caring for a parent.
Wilson was one of a handful of attendees at a recent Powerful Tools for Caregivers course at the Cabarrus County Department of Human Services, 1303 S. Cannon Blvd., Kannapolis. The course is a component of the grant-funded Cabarrus County DHS Family Caregiver Support Program.
Centralina Area Agency on Aging coordinates the full program, which offers care management, respite, resources, training, education and other supplemental services. Powerful Tools for Caregivers is part of the education portion.
The free, six-week course meets one day a week for two-and-a-half hours. In class, attendees discuss ways to reduce personal stress, change negative self-talk, communicate effectively in challenging situations and manage their emotions.
It also provides a place for people in similar situations to share stories in an understanding, supportive environment.
“I see a change with everyone that attends,” says Susan Domann, a supervisor with Cabarrus County DHS Adult and Aging Services. “What we see is that the caregiver becomes a different person. They are stronger. They’re more knowledgeable. They no longer feel like they are isolated and alone.”
Mother and daughter duo Marlene and Marie Incammisa attended the course together in hopes they would both benefit.
“I just want this family -- going forward -- to be better, to be more solid,” daughter Marie said on the final day of class. “And for (Marlene) to have an easier time than she has. That’s why I’m here, (to learn) what she needs from (the family) to make life better for her.”
“This class has taught me to say what I feel,” Marlene told the group. “If I’m hurting or I feel bad, (family members) have to know. I’ve learned from this class to be more open.”
That openness made a difference to her fellow participants, including David Wilson.
“To pour out your heart and speak on personal things, it has helped me,” Wilson told the Incammisas before addressing the entire class. “I won’t forget this class. I wish more caregivers and care receivers could come and participate because I just have a feeling that some of them don’t know about it – and it’s extremely helpful.”
To register for the winter session of Powerful Tools for Caregivers, which runs from January 23 through February 27, call 704-920-1887.
Learn more about all the services provided by the Family Caregiver Support Program by calling 704-920-1400 or visiting cabarruscounty.us/departments/adult-aging-services.