Registration is open for free training classes for caregivers of loved ones with dementia-related diseases that aim to help reduce stress and increase their knowledge and skills.

The Area Agency on Aging 1-B is a non-profit that provides services to those ages 60 and older who reside in Livingston County and others in Southeast Michigan. AAA 1-B and the Alzheimer’s Association are again offering the Creating Confident Caregivers classes, which aim to reduce stress for local caregivers by empowering them with tools and information. The classes are not intended for professional caregivers, but caregivers of family members with some type of memory loss living in the community – meaning they could have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia.

AAA 1-B Program Manager for Caregiver & Social Services Cathy Backos says especially for caregivers of a person with memory loss, it really is an unexpected career they fall into and they sometimes don’t know where to go for help or how to handle the situation. She says they find caregivers of persons with dementia are significantly more likely to have health and mental health problems compared to other caregivers; 2.5 times more likely to need medication for nerves or stress; and half as likely to seek medical help for their own health problems because they’re so busy taking care of the person with memory loss who in many cases cannot be left alone.

Backos says they try to provide knowledge for the caregiver, because many times they don’t know what the diagnosis means. She says there are eight different types of thought processes that can be affected by dementia so it’s not only memory but sometimes a loved one’s reasoning ability, judgment or perception. Backos says they start with a knowledge base and then skills the caregiver will need to manage care for their loved one. The program also involves outlook, because many times these types of caregivers are severely stressed. Additional parts of the program focus on strengthening family resources and improving confidence but bonds and friendships are frequently formed with other participants. Backos says further, the program looks at developing skills for self-care, as many caregivers don’t make time for themselves.

Backos says they also help caregivers develop strategies to manage different behaviors they see in persons with memory loss, which many times is coming from confusion. Since it’s a group setting, she says participants also learn from each other. Backos says once they have these tools, they become better caregivers- which is better for their life and the person they’re caring for.

Classes are held once a week for six weeks at Livingston County Catholic Charities Be Our Guest Program in Howell starting October 12th. Class size is limited so anyone interested in attending is encouraged to register sooner than later through AAA 1-B. On-site respite care is available and can be arranged at no cost to the participant.

Those looking to register should contact AAA 1-B at 1-800-852-7795 and then remain on the line for a reservation. Backos says do not dial 1, as that would connect someone with a different program/class. A class brochure is attached. Photo: AAA 1-B. (JM)