Nonprofit Profile

Office on Aging has help for caregivers

Carol Wagner, Leader Correspondent

Photo by Carol Wagner Heidi Russell is the director of aging for Shawano County Human Services.

Last fall, the Shawano County Aging Unit sponsored classes for caregivers called Powerful Tools for Caregivers. It was a six-week session to help caregivers take care of themselves while taking care of a loved one.

“It was a class to teach caregivers to be better by taking care of themselves,” said Heidi Russell, director of aging for Shawano County Human Services Department.

She resurrected the caregiver course, which hadn’t been available for a few years. She said the people who come to it become a tight community.

In December, Russell started a support group, Mug Club for Caregivers, which will meet on the first Tuesday of the month. The focus is to learn coping skills, along with finding resources and talking to others who are also caregivers.

“People are learning if they don’t take care of themselves, they can’t take care of someone else,” Russell said. “When you are a caregiver, you never take the time to plan for yourself.”

She can attest to the challenge of taking care of someone. Her father learned to step back and take care of himself while his wife was ill for three years. Now Russell and her two siblings are taking care of their father, who can mostly care for himself but gets help from them with meals and other things.

Joyce Shest went to her first meeting of the Mug Club after completing Powerful Tools for Caregivers. Shest and her husband and children take care of her 93-year-old mother, who lives with them.

“It was very nice,” she said. “It’s nice to go to a place where other people understand what you’re going through.”

Shest said there were caregivers helping others in a variety of situations. They were given an action plan to do something to take care of themselves.

“It was a good problem-solving situation,” she said.

Ann Steffen also completed the caregivers course and hopes to go to the Mug Club meetings when possible. A wife and mother, she is taking care of her mom, who is now in a nursing home, and her father, who is at home but needs constant attention as he has hearing and vision problems.

“It made me think about not being the only one going through this,” she said. “It made me think of me a little bit more, so I’m not as rushed with them. It’s my new normal.”

Anyone can attend the Mug Club support group even if they haven’t taken the Powerful Tools course, which will be given twice a year in the spring and fall.


WHAT: Mug Club for Caregivers

WHERE: Fellman Center, 607 E. Elizabeth St., Shawano

WHEN: 5-7 p.m. first Tuesday of the month

FYI: For information, call 715-526-4700. For transportation assistance, call Heidi Russell at 715-526-4686.