The vast majority of older North Dakotans want to stay living in their home as they age.
In 2017, North Dakota had 68,000 family caregivers who provided 57 million hours of unpaid care, valued at $980 million.
“These family caregivers provide a range of daily activities, such as transportation, personal care, managing finances, grocery shopping and much more,” says Jane Strommen, NDSU Extension gerontology specialist. “Caregiving can be a rewarding experience but can also be filled with enormous physical, emotional and financial challenges.”
NDSU Extension is making sure that those taking care of older adults receive support through a national program, Powerful Tools for Caregivers (PTC). Fifteen Extension agents are trained to lead the classes.
During the six-week course, spouses, partners, adult children, other family members, neighbors and friends who are caregivers learn how to take care of themselves by reducing stress, improving their self-confidence, learning how to better communicate their feelings and balance their lives, increasing their ability to make tough decisions and finding helpful resources.
In 2019, nine workshops were offered in five counties, with 85 participants attending. Twenty-six new class leaders also were trained to deliver the program in their community.
“Throughout the years of conducting this program, class participants have shared with me that this class empowered them to take care of themselves,” says Rita Ussatis, NDSU Extension agent in Cass County. “One participant even said that the class saved his life by providing the tools and resources he needed to find help for his wife.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NDSU Extension is conducting PTC in an online format.
The program recently was expanded to serve the population of caregivers of children with special health and behavioral needs because research indicates these caregivers experience many common concerns and stresses addressed by this program.