As a long-distance caregiver, Karen Agrelius devotes a large portion of her life handling the needs of her parents who live on the opposite side of the country.
"The decisions are so hard, and then, there's so much emotion involved," said the Martinez resident. "It keeps you stressed and exhausted."
Agrelius has spent the last five years caring for her father, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and her mother, who has suffered two strokes.
She said she often flies to California for her father's medical appointments and any other issues that arise. At home, she deals with phone calls involving her parents.
But Agrelius and other caregivers in the area can soon learn how to better take care of themselves.
An educational series called Powerful Tools for Caregivers starts July 31 at Brandon Wilde in Evans and will provide caregivers with the necessary tools to improve their own lives. The series, taught by Georgia Jopling of the Area Agency on Aging and Kathy Tuckey of the Alzheimer's Association, consists of six 90 minutes courses held once each week. The last class will take place on Sept. 4.
The series will be held each Thursday from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. A $25 fee will help pay for the class's workbook cost.
"This is the first time Powerful Tools for Caregivers is being done in Georgia," said Tuckey, the regional programs and services director for the Alzheimer's Association. "This is a six-session class, so the person has to commit to the six weeks."
The first class will focus on identifying and reducing personal stress and communicating feelings, needs and concerns, Tuckey said.
Other sessions will teach participants how to learn from their emotions and how to master caregiving decisions.
Participants will use brainstorming, role-playing and videos to learn, Tuckey said.
The classes are designed for anyone caring for someone with a chronic illness, she added.
"This is all for the caregiver," she said. "This is to empower the caregiver, reduce their stress and improve their self care and their physiological being. As a caregiver, if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of your loved one."
Tuckey expects each class to hold between 12 and 15 people. Additional classes will be opened in Columbia County depending on the level of response received.
The deadline for registration is Thursday.
Agrelius said that although many aspects of caregiving are stressful, she finds other parts rewarding.
"There are a lot of joyful times," she said. "That's really why you continue on."
As for the caregiving series, Agrelius said she definitely has plans to attend.
"Any information that I can get, I just drink it in," she said. "They can't do it on their own, and I can't either."
To register for the educational series or to find out more information, call Tuckey at (706) 731-9060.
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