STRESS BUSTING

St. John’s Community Care will be hosting virtual online Stress Busting Sessions starting on Monday, July 27th.
Anyone from anywhere is welcome to join the group. There is no charge to participate in these sessions, designed to help families caring for a loved one with dementia and aging, cope, and learn new strategies. For more information contact St. John’s at 618-344-5008 or email Gail at gshaw@stjohnscc.org

The Impact of a Stress-Busting Class
By Gail Shaw, Dementia Care Specialist – Coordinator of Training & Support

You never know how a class you teach will turn out for the ones attending. As a facilitator, I hope the attendees will grasp the material and be able to utilize the information in their own lives. I didn’t stop to think about how the attendees would respond to each other and the impact that they could make on each other’s journey of care giving.

This past winter, St. John’s provided its first Stress-Busting class for family givers. The facilitator’s training manual states the class was meant to 1) improve the quality of life for the family caregiver who is caring for a loved one with memory loss and 2) help caregivers manage their stress and cope better with their lives.

This class was supposed to meet for 90 minutes every Monday morning for 9 weeks. Everything started out just fine. Two ladies were caring for their mothers, who lived in an assisted living facility. The other three were caring for their spouses at home. These 5 attendees met with 2 instructors. The group shared their frustrations, concerns and gave encouragement to each other when needed. Much was learned and shared during the first 7 weeks. Then the COVID-19 set in and changed everything and everyone’s life.

During the next 8 weeks, I kept in contact with each attendee. Every time I called to check on someone, they would inquire about their fellow classmates. They asked me to pass on messages to each other, which I did for them. One attendee knew that one of the older gentlemen didn’t have anyone checking on him and his wife. She knew how much it meant to this man to be able to get out to work in his garden. I was asked to relay the message that this lady and her daughter were willing to come over to his house. They could either sit with gentleman’s wife so he could get out to work in his garden or they would plant the vegetable garden for him. This gentleman was so touched by their offer and kindness. He told me that he had never experienced this before. He stated that he was glad to be involved with the various St. John’s programs.

After many weeks of sheltering in place, the attendees were asked if they were interested in finishing up the last two sessions. All agreed that they wanted to finish the class. They were looking forward to seeing each other again. The decision was then made to resume the class by offering it in a Zoom meeting format. So, after being apart for 8 weeks, the class resumed with all the attendees coming back. They stated it felt good to be back and to be able to interact with each other again. Different ones offered to help those who were stuck at home with their loved one. They now know how to get in touch with other and will reach out to each other. I am very humbled and touched to have been a very small part in the positive impact the Stress-Busting class had on those participating.

AgeSmart Community Resources underwrites the Stress Busting program with funds granted through the Administration for Community Living and Illinois Department on Aging. AgeSmart is our  local Area Agency on Aging and promotes healthy aging by providing information and resources people need to age well their own way.

Participant Reviews  –  Stress Busting

In what ways, if any, did participating in the Stress Busting program change you or your way of perceiving or dealing with stress?    

The Class exposed all the tasks caring for a loved one entails and that, especially if the patient is living at home, it will cause stress, anxiety, frustration, etc. and that is normal.    Even though it is stressful, the caregiver needs to shed guilt and find ways to cope ——– and there many great examples.

Just sharing experience and ideas made me feel understood and not alone.

It allowed me to learn other’s stories and the struggles they are going through. That helped me feel I am not alone and that others understand the difficulty.

Do you cope with difficulties any differently now? If so, how?

Throughout the day, I strive to concentrate on the task at hand; think it through, decide and act on it to a satisfactory conclusion.   I also try to take time to relax, read, meditate, etc. while my husband is napping——I have that time for myself.

Yes, letting go of things I can’t change and accepting that I’m doing the best I can for mom.

I looked into things that would help my stress level. I started yoga and committed myself to practice 3x/week. Focusing on my bible more. Making friends a focus.

What plans do you have to “take care of yourself”?

My plan is to reach out to the services available, either through Bill’s VA benefits or self-financed to give me the respite time to take care of my outside needs —–to allow me to have interaction with grandchildren and friends.   I plan to organize as much as I can our house so that we can enjoy it as time goes on and, if necessary, to be able to downsize in the future.

Call 618-344-5008 or email gshaw@stjohnscc.org for more information and to reserve your seat for the next session!

More exercising (walking) when it stops raining!

Taking time for myself more; continuing to read my bible and other religious books. Continue to stay in contact with friends.

What advice would you give a new caregiver?

Try to remember the disease is that person; try to stay calm in all situations; reach out to learn as much as you can; surround yourself with help when needed; plan easy meals; plan some nice outings with or without your loved one; try to talk of the fun stuff as you can still enjoy many things; don’t beat yourself up; reach out to services such as support groups, support classes and share your experience and learn from others.

Take classes, get in a good support group, take care of yourself, call Alzheimer’s support and read the book The 36 Hour Day.

Take care of yourself so you can take care of your loved one. Be kind to yourself.

Forgive yourself. Seek out supportive people to help you through it.

THANK YOU, GAIL & LINDA, FOR A REALLY INFORMATIVE AND WELL-LED CLASS !!!!  AS WE GO THROUGH OUR JOURNEY, WE HAVE HOPE AND SKILLS THAT HELP US BE AS WELL EQUIPPED AS POSSIBLE.   I LOOK FORWARD TO KEEPING MY GOOD HEALTH AND BALANCE AND ENJOYED THE REFERENCE BOOK AND SHARING WITH THE OTHERS.                                                                                                              

Thank you, Gail and Linda. It was a great program and so thankful for you.

                                                                                                                            

 

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