Training program focuses on the caregiver’s needs

Four years ago, Powerful Tools for Caregivers was first introduced in Maui.

What is that? you ask. It’s a six-week evidence-based training that helps family caregivers to thrive, not just survive the caregiving process.

Classes are taught by trained class leaders, many of whom are current or past caregivers. To date, more than 200 family caregivers in Maui have participated in the series!

And thanks to an ongoing partnership between the Maui County Office on Aging and Maui’s Office of the University of Hawaii Manoa Cooperative Extension, the program is expanding.

But before covering the expansion, let’s take a closer look at the actual program.

Unlike many caregiver trainings that teach families how to provide physical care to their loved ones, Powerful Tools for Caregivers (PTC for short) focuses on the caregiver’s needs. Topics include:

* Caregiver self-care.

* Action plans.

* Stress management.

* Positive self-talk.

* Relaxation techniques.

* Communication with family, friends and health care professionals.

Setting boundaries.

* Community resources.

* Decision-making.

* Solution-seeking strategies.

* Family meetings.

Although PTC is not a support group, participants constantly give and receive support. Most are sad to see the class end. Some have remained in contact after the series ends.

Caregivers are encouraged to identify and participate in support groups that fit into their schedule. Local support groups are conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association and the Maui Adult Day Care and held on different days, times and locations throughout Maui.

In addition to weekly class materials, all participants receive a manual called The Caregiver Helpbook. It includes background on the weekly topics and sections on specific caregiving challenges such as making driving decisions, hiring in-home help, end-of-life issues, long-distance caregiving and elder abuse.

Maui’s PTC participants come from a variety of backgrounds and situations. Some provide full-time care while others provide long-distance care, care to family who live in assisted-living or nursing homes, or know caregiving is around the corner and want to prepare early.

PTC isn’t just for the caregivers of kupuna. Participants have included grandparents who care for special needs grandchildren, parents who care for dependent adult children, and spouses with chronic conditions. But the largest group includes adult children who care for their aging parents and in-laws.

Four series are scheduled to begin this fall:

* Sept. 26, 9 to 11 a.m., Kihei.

* Sept. 28, 9 to 11 a.m., Kahului.

* Oct. 1, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Kahului.

* Nov. 4, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Pukalani.

Current grant funds allow the program to be offered at just $25 per caregiver. But, that registration fee is refunded to all caregivers who attend at least five of the six classes, making the series free.

As the number of caregivers increases, the need for these classes will also increase.

To meet both the current and future needs, Powerful Tools for Caregivers is reaching out to volunteers to help with the expansion. Volunteer class leaders are the heart of PTC on Maui.

To become certified as a class leader, trainees complete a comprehensive two-day training. In this training they receive all the tools needed to conduct a six-week series. This includes program background, class scripts, class leader tips and practice teaching. Trainees are then matched with an experienced class leader to conduct a series.

Volunteers commit to teach two series in their first year and one series each subsequent year.

Most continue to volunteer for years because they gain so much from the experience and because the program is very flexible. Classes are scheduled around the volunteer’s availability and near his or her home or work.

But the greatest joy class leaders experience is watching class members become more confident caregivers and knowing they had a hand in that transformation.

Two class leader trainings will be held in October. The first is on Molokai on Oct. 11 and 18. The second is in Kahului on Oct. 22 and 23.

For more information about the six-week series or the class leader training, call 244-3242, ext. 226, or send email to

* Heather Greenwood is with the University of Hawaii Manoa Cooperative Extension, Maui Intergenerational and Aging programs. Aging Matters covers topics of interest to the aging Maui community and appears on the third Sunday of each month.