Stress-Busting program helps caregivers manage stress and cope

Posted at 12:06 PM, Apr 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-04 18:27:21-04

A program in McLennan County is helping caregivers of a loved one with dementia cope and manage their stress.

The Stress-Busting Program for Family Caregivers (SBP) is a nine-week class that gives caregivers stress management techniques and relaxation strategies. 

Each class is free. 

Donna Mitchell joined the class after her 66-year-old husband Dale was diagnosed with parkinsonism, which falls under the umbrella of dementia.

“We thought we're too young. This isn't what we had planned. This is not what we want to do. This is different from what we expected,” Mitchell said.

She found the stress-busting program that allows her to talk with other caregivers of loved ones with a type of dementia who are going through similar situations.

"It pulled be through the grief period when i was just being ambushed,” Mitchell said.

Participants in the course are caregivers of loved ones with some form of dementia.

“It is an adventure. And that kind of changes the whole perspective of how you view this,” Nancy Gehlbach, a participant in the course, said.

The class focuses on making sure caregivers take care of themselves and not just their loved one. Participants said they see a difference in themselves in a matter of just a few weeks in the course.

"I know I am healthier, my mind is more settled, I'm more at peace in all of this,” Su Milam, a participant in the class, said.

When someone is diagnosed with dementia, there is oftentimes a sense of fear that comes with the diagnosis. The class is designed to give caregivers confidence and get rid of the stigma of fear.

"There's so much that's unknown. It's very unpredictable and it can be very unpredictable on a daily basis even for the actual person who has Alzheimer’s,” Amy Ashcraft, a facilitator for the class and senior resource navigator for the Heart of Texas Aging and Disability Resource Center, said.

Jaylie Beckenhauer, a facilitator and manager of evidence based programs for the Area Agency on Aging, can see a difference in the participants throughout the 9-week course.

“They just physically look different. Their demeanor is different. they're smiling. they say they're able to cope,” Beckenhauer said. “And that’s rewarding to see.”

The Area Agency on Aging of the Heart of Texas hosts the program. It serves six counties, including McLennan, Bosque, Falls, Freestone, Hill and Limestone. 

The Area Agency on Aging of the Heart of Texas also offered other programs, including A Matter of Balance class; Better Choices, and Better Health class. For more information on what classes are available, call (254) 292-1800 or call 2-1-1.

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