Powerful Tools for Caregivers
Program Origins and Development
Powerful Tools for Caregivers (PTC) and all materials were developed over 3 years of pilot testing, refinement and evaluative research to assess the program’s effectiveness. Initiated through grant funding, the program has been offered since 1998 in the United States. There are 3,000 trained PTC Class Leaders in 40 states as of 2015. Since the program’s inception, Powerful Tools for Caregivers materials have reached over 80,000 caregivers.
PTC is based on the highly successful Chronic Disease Self-Management Program developed by Dr. Kate Lorig and her colleagues at Stanford University.
Brief Description of Caregiver Class Content
In the six weekly classes, caregivers develop a wealth of self-care tools to:
- reduce personal stress; change negative self-talk; communicate their needs to family members and healthcare or service providers; communicate effectively in challenging situations
- recognize the messages in their emotions, deal with difficult feelings; and make tough caregiving decisions.
- Class participants also receive a copy of The Caregiver Help book, developed specifically for the class.
Research and Outcomes
In the years since the program began, a great deal of research, evaluation and revision has been done to ensure its continued value and success. The 6-week PTC class has been shown to have a positive impact on caregiver health for a diverse group of caregivers including rural, ethnic minorities, adult children of aging parents, well-spouses/partners, caregivers at differing stages in their caregiving role, living situations, financial and educational backgrounds. Data from class participant evaluations indicates the PTC program significantly improves:
- Self-Care Behaviors: (increased exercise, use of relaxation techniques and medical checkups.)
- Management of Emotions: (reduced guilt, anger, and depression.)
- Self-efficacy (increased confidence in coping with caregiving demands.)
- Use of Community Resources: (increased utilization of community services.)
Powerful Tools for Caregivers - Class Description
Class #1: Taking Care of You
This class sets the stage for the entire course. It emphasizes that the focus is on “YOU, the caregiver, not on the family member receiving care,” and that caregivers will develop a “box of self-care tools.” The challenges of caregiving and significance of caregiver self-care are dramatized through a video. Beginning in this class, caregivers make a weekly action plan for self-care.
Class #2: Identifying and Reducing Personal Stress
Four steps are presented for effective stress management: (1) Identifying early warning signs, (2) Identifying personal sources of stress, (3) Changing what you can change and accepting what you cannot change, and (4) Taking action. Tools to reduce stress are discussed. Participants learn how to change negative self-talk – which increases stress and erodes confidence – to positive self-talk. Beginning in this class, caregivers learn five relaxation activities that are easy to incorporate into their daily lives.
Class #3: Communicating Feelings, Needs, and Concerns
Participants learn how to communicate their feelings, needs and concerns more effectively by using “I” messages. Through brief dramatizations, participants experience the impact of both “I” messages and “You” messages (which tend to sound blaming and put people on the defensive). They practice changing “You” messages to “I” messages, and identifying when statements beginning with the word “I” are actually “Hidden You” messages.
Class #4: Communicating in Challenging Situations
Participants practice two communication tools – assertiveness and Aikido – which are helpful in difficult situations. They learn a four-step process, called DESC (Describe, Express, Specify, and Consequence) for using the assertive style of communication. With Aikido, participants learn how to align and find “common ground” with a person who is distressed. A segment highlights guidelines for communicating with a person who is memory impaired.
Class #5: Learning From Our Emotions
The overriding theme of this class is “our emotions are messages we need to listen to.” It emphasizes that feelings occur for a reason and that feelings are neither good nor bad. Focus is on identifying constructive ways for dealing with difficult feelings – especially anger, guilt, and depression – and resources for professional help.
Class #6: Mastering Caregiving Decisions
Focus is on the internal emotional process caregivers go through when they experience a life change. Tools for dealing with changes and for making tough decisions – including a seven-step decision-making model and the family meeting – are discussed.
Retrieved from Powerful Tools for Caregivers Website