A Compendium of Intervention and Descriptive Studies Designed to Promote the Health of Caregivers for Older Adults. Powerful Tools for Caregiving Program


Sponsors. Legacy Health System, Mather LifeWays Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Local Initiative Funding Partners Program, Northwest Health Foundation, Good Samaritan Foundation, Administration on Aging, Oregon Community Foundation, and other community agencies and extension programs.

Purpose. The Powerful Tools for Caregiving Program has been developed by the Legacy Health System in Portland, Oregon, to provide self-care training to caregivers to help them to take better physical and emotional care of themselves. The program was initiated in 1995 in Oregon to provide caregiver training to caregivers. It has since been expanded to several other states (including California, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin).

Description. The program is modeled after the successful Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, developed by Dr. Kate Lorig and colleagues at Stanford University's Patient Education Research Center. Concepts from Dr. Lorig's work have been adapted to address the needs and concerns of family caregivers. Caregivers attend six 2.5 hour classes over a 6-week period. The educational course is designed to help caregivers develop self-care tools to reduce personal stress, take better physical and emotional care of themselves, communicate their needs to family members, and make difficult caregiving decisions when a family member can no longer live alone, drive safely, and/or manage his/her finances. Caregivers also receive a 300-page book, entitled The Caregiver Helpbook, developed specifically for the class.27 The Helpbook provides a list of basic wellness practices for caregivers, including proper diet, adequate sleep, and regular exercise. Materials have been developed in English, Spanish, and Korean.28

The project includes a train-the-trainer program, which recruits and trains current and former caregivers to co-lead the classes. Class leaders also receive a comprehensive step-by-step guide, known as The Class Leader's Guide, as part of their training. A Master Trainer Program has also been developed so that trainers can teach other professionals to offer training at their agency locations.28

Results-to-Date. The program has reached more than 700 family caregivers in Oregon and many more in other states in the United States, as well as Canada. Initial evaluation results have shown that the program reduces caregiver guilt and anger, increases caregiver self-care behavior (including increased use of physical exercise and decreased health-related self-neglect), increases positive feelings about caregiving, reduces depression, and increases knowledge and use of services available in the community.29

Although program effects were particularly dramatic immediately following program participation, significant effects for several caregiver outcomes have been observed 6 months after the program was completed: reduced anger, guilt, depression, and health-related self-care neglect, as well as increased use of community services.30

Next Steps. The Legacy Health System recently sold the Powerful Tools for Caregivers program to the Mather Institute on Aging in Evanston, Illinois. The Mather Institute is currently planning training sessions across the United States, using a grant provided by the Administration on Aging, to refine the training program further and to evaluate the course at four points in time (pre-course, post-course, 6 months post-course, and 12 months post-course). The Mather Institute on Aging is also planning to disseminate materials widely throughout the United States (http://www.matherlifeways.com).

Contact Persons.

Daniel Kuhn, MSW (research questions)
Mather LifeWays
1603 Orrington Avenue
Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 492-6813
Email address: dkuhn@matherlifeways.com.
Website address: http://www.matherlifeways.com

Susan Rothas (program questions)
Mather LifeWays
1603 Orrington Avenue
Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 492-6809

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