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Powerful Tools for Caregivers: July 18, 2011

“She’s the sweetest person you’ll ever want to meet,” says caregiver Hank Graefen.

Her smile still lights up a room, but at 93 years old Helen Kubas is rarely alert.

“Right now she’s in her last stage of her life and she’s sleeping probably 20 to 22 hours a day, we can’t take her anywhere,” says Graefen.

Helen suffers from dementia and is totally dependent. Her daughter and son-in-law are caring for her in their home. They knew it was a life changing decision.

“She’s like the mother and my mother in law is like the daughter now it’s just a reversal of the roles in life,” says Graefen.

The Graefen’s are among the 39 million U.S. households care-taking an aging adult and 40% of them are adult children caring for a parent.

“It’s really hard to even talk to somebody and explain it to somebody, you almost have to go through it,” says Graefen.

Becoming a primary caregiver means taking on new roles and responsibilities. With that comes a tremendous amount of stress. As more people find themselves in that situation, they are reaching out for help.

Danielle Musteffe coordinates the Powerful Tools program at Lee Memorial Health System.

“The Powerful Tools program is more teaching the caregiver how to care for them self and better have a sense of balance in their life while they’re caring for someone else.”

“Why its stressful I couldn’t give you an answer but it’s a hidden type thing where you can’t plan tomorrow,” says Graefen.

The program helps Hank find balance between heavy burden and labor of love.

“When I went to the class they told me that your life isn’t over, you’re just going in a different direction.”