Locals who take care of their family members dealing with illness can find information about how to support themselves at the “Powerful Tools for Caregivers” program.

The classes at the Stillaguamish Senior Center are from March 19 to April 23 and May 21 to June 25 this year.

They take place at the center at 18308 Smokey Point Blvd., Arlington on Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

The program costs $25 to cover the book, although that fee can be waived for those in need. Registration is required for the classes.

The family caregiver support specialist at the center, Angeles Vesely, said that the focus of the program is to help caregivers.

“This class is to help caregivers take care of themselves so they can take care of their loved one,” she said. “You cannot take care of your loved one if you’re not healthy yourself.”

One survey showed that the caregiver often dies before the person being taken care of, and the stress of caregiving is a big contributor to that, said Vesely. “They are more focused on the people that they take care of."

Caregivers are often more worried about getting their family member to hospital appointments than going to their own appointments, which is a problem as they get older.

Vesely said that people often don’t see themselves as caregivers, but when they come in to the program they see their own problems and experiences.

You are still a caregiver even if you’re not getting paid or looking after a loved one, said Vesely.

Less men come into the program because they don’t want to be labeled as a caregiver, she said.

Some people are experiencing emotions that they don’t know how to handle.

“They’re embarrassed to say ‘I’m tired of taking care of my husband’ or ‘I don’t know what to do with my mother,’” said Vesely.

The program provides education and training and “knowing how to react in every situation as a caregiver,” said Vesely.

There are state services and caregiver support groups all across the county that can help caregivers.

“They tell their stories that everyone there can understand,” she said.

The classes can also help caregivers connect with resources to learn more about diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Topics of the program include how to handle stress and “looking for the early warning signs of stress” and “how to communicate … sometimes they don’t want to talk about the problems,” said Vesely.

The caregiver program is paid for by the federal government to help provide support for caregivers across the country.

To learn more about the program or to register contact Angeles Vesely at avesely@stillycenter.org or Debbie Cook at dcook@stillycenter.org.

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