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Caring for yourself is one of the most important, and one of the most often forgotten, things you can do as a caregiver.

When your needs are taken care of, the person you are caring for also will benefit.

Caregiving can be a rewarding experience, but it also can be filled with enormous challenges, such as physical demands, financial implications, emotional burden and relationship challenges. The effects of caregiving on health and well-being are significant.

Regardless of age, sex, race and ethnicity, caregivers report common problems such as sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, failing to exercise, failing to rest when ill and postponing or failing to make medical appointments for themselves. Family caregivers also are at increased risk for depression and excessive use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

But despite these risks, family caregivers are less likely than noncaregivers to practice preventive health-care and self-care behavior. Caregivers may not be able to stop the impact of a chronic illness or condition of someone they are caring for, but caregivers have a great deal they can do to take responsibility for their personal well-being and get their own needs met.

The Powerful Tools for Caregivers program is an evidence-based six-week educational workshop designed to help family caregivers take better care of themselves and feel more confident in their ability to care for their family members. NDSU Extension offers the program through partnerships with local organizations.

The Powerful Tools for Caregivers program is available for two audiences: caregivers of adults with chronic conditions and parents of children with special needs.

In the six weekly classes, caregivers develop self-care tools to reduce personal stress, change negative self-talk, communicate their needs to family members and health care or service providers, communicate more effectively in challenging situations, recognize the messages in their emotions, deal with difficult feelings and make tough caregiving decisions.

The Powerful Tools for Caregivers program for caregivers of adults with chronic conditions will be offered Mondays from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. beginning April 29. To register for the six-session class or find out more information, please call me at 701-667-3340.

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Vanessa Hoines is an extension agent with NDSU Extension/Morton County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer science education and food and nutrition and a master’s degree in child development and family science.

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