K-State Research and Extension News
March 05, 2013
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K-State to Offer New Program for Caregivers

MANHATTAN, Kan. – At some time in their life, most people will either be a caregiver – or in need of a caregiver.

According to a survey, “Caregiving in the U.S. 2009,” 65 million Americans are currently fulfilling the role of unpaid caregivers for children and adults, said Deb Sellers, K-State Research and Extension specialist on adult development and aging.

The estimated value for services provided by unpaid family caregivers in the U.S. is $450 billion annually, said Sellers, who expects the numbers to rise as the population ages. The estimate is from a 2011 update: “Valuing the Invaluable: The Growing Contributions and Costs of Caregiving.”

Sellers noted that the majority of caregivers are women in their mid-to-late 40s. The likely recipient of their care also is female, about 60 years of age and with age-related illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia.

Caregiving also is required for children with special needs, children and adults with disabilities, and in some cases, military service members.

Needs vary, said Sellers, who noted that caregivers of veterans may have specific challenges and unique needs. A recent survey of caregivers caring for younger veterans included mental illness such as depression, post-traumatic stress, and traumatic brain injury as the most common health conditions.

With about 64 percent of today’s caregivers also employed outside the home, Sellers expressed concern about stress associated with caregiving and meeting the needs of others without sacrificing the caregiver’s health and well-being.

That’s why she is providing the leadership for bringing a new program, “Powerful Tools for Caregivers,” to Kansas. 

The series of six how-to sessions was inspired by Kate Lorig, director of the Stanford Patient Education Research Center and professor of medicine in the Stanford School of Medicine. Lorig developed the Chronic Disease Self-Management program that teaches people with chronic illnesses self-help skills. 

Sellers, along with K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences agents, Megan Ferrell, Harper County; Nancy Pihl, Marion County; Christine McPheter, Meade County, and Kathy Lupfer-Nielsen, Post Rock Extension District (serving Lincoln, Osborne, Jewell and Mitchell counties) and Joan Kahl, extension associate based in Manhattan, attended training sessions in Omaha, Neb., to make the six-week series available in Kansas.

Topics for upcoming sessions include: Taking Care of You; Four Steps in Identifying – and Reducing Stress; Communicating Feelings, Needs and Concerns; Communicating Effectively in Challenging Situations; Learning from Emotions; and Mastering Caregiving Decisions.

Nurturing a positive attitude is an essential element in the sessions, said Pihl, who will introduce the pilot program in Hillsboro, Kan., on Thursdays, May 2-June 6 from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. There is no charge to attend, but registration is required to ensure program materials for each participant. For registration and more information, call 620-382-2325 or visit the K-State Research and Extension Marion County office, Courthouse Annex, 202 S. Third, Suite A, in Marion.

Weekly sessions also will be offered in the following communities, although meeting times and locations are yet to be determined: 

* Beloit, Kan., May 1-June 5, facilitated by Deb Sellers and Kathy Lupfer-Nielsen.

* Harper County, Kan., May 1-June 5, facilitated by Deb Sellers and Megan Ferrell. 

* Meade County, Kan., Sept. 4-Oct. 16 (with one week off), facilitated by Christine McPheter  and Kathy Lupfer-Nielsen. 

* Stevens County, Kan., Sept. 5-Oct. 17 (with one week off), facilitated by Christine McPheter and Kathy Lupfer-Nielsen.

“The goal is to introduce the program in Kansas communities and adjust delivery to best serve the needs of our population,” said Sellers, who noted that pending the response, the newly-trained leaders will undergo additional training in order to expand the effort statewide. 

Additional resources for families and caregivers including information about assistive technologies; home modifications; advance directives; traumatic brain injuries; managing chronic illnesses through the Kansans Optimizing Health Program, and the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension program, “Master of Memory,” is available at K-State Research and Extension offices throughout the state and online at Adult Development and Aging.

K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Nancy Peterson
K-State Research & Extension News

Deb Sellers is at 785-532-1939 or dsellers@ksu.edu; Megan Ferrell is at 620-842-5445 or mferrell@ksu.edu; Kathy Lupfer-Nielsen is at 785-524-4432 or knielsen@ksu.edu; Christine McPheter is at 620-873-