Healthy Caregiving

In Montana there are over 160,000 caregivers that care for family members with activities of daily living due to age, disability or family dislocation. Caregivers often report more stress, anxiety, decreased well-being and health as a result of no respite time away or healthy well-being habits. The goal of MSU extension healthy caregiving initiative is to provide research-based education and respite opportunities for caregivers in Montana’s communities. These programs consist of learning how to care for oneself and improve their well-being while being a healthy caregiver. The Powerful Tools for Caregivers program is one such program that can provide tools to navigate the challenges of caregiving. Additionally, new programs will identify specific caregiver resources from state partners that include Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, AARP, the Alzheimer’s Association and other agencies from Montana. Check back frequently to go through new opportunities to live as a healthy caregiver or contact MSU extension for more information.

A recent attendee of a Respite Retreat in Anaconda Deer Lodge County had this to say:

MSU’s caregiver retreat showed importance of taking care of yourself

James S. Rosien
Walking the Beat
It’s the little things that sometimes have the biggest impact.
Whether it's a butterfly flapping its wings in China causing a hurricane in the Caribbean (and no, that doesn't literally happen; the Butterfly Effect is a metaphor for small causes having large effects), or in my case, turning a little glass jar, some water, clear glue and blue and green glitter into a much-needed stress reliever, the small stuff that often goes overlooked can be of greater importance than we might realize.

Okay so now that I've completely lost you, dear reader, especially with that glitter talk, let me explain: On Wednesday, yours truly took a rare half-day in the middle of the week to take part in a little retreat for caregivers that was offered at Hearst Free Library by the Montana State University Extension program designed to help people who are putting so much of their own selves into caring for others that they often don't take the time to take care of themselves.
When I first was informed of this retreat a month or so ago by Kayleen Kidwell our own local MSU Extension agent, I used it as a springboard to write a few thoughts on the importance of self-care. As is my wont, however, I approached it from a detached analytical angle with the usual philosophic references, in this case to Albert Camus, and vague allusions to my past. Yet reality, as it often does, has a way of diverging from theory.

I will readily admit to some skepticism when the essential oils made their appearance early on at the retreat (Jean-Paul Sartre's "Existence precedes essence" slogan always comes to mind whenever I hear about essential anything – and yes I just had to shoehorn another philosophic reference in), followed by trepidation at the thought of doing anything with glitter and glue. Did I get sent back to grade school or something? Yet funny enough the scent of distilled cedar brought me back to exploring the Evergreen forests of my childhood in western Washington, which may well have paved the way for my eventually being receptive to becoming part of the glitterati. But what I really think happened is that I found something to affix my attention to and take my mind off my sources of stress, however briefly, and yet so much so that my shiny little snowglobe substitute has found a welcome spot on my desk.

And I think that's kind of the point of self-care and all the little things that need doing just to keep ourselves going as we live our lives for others – and yet often go overlooked, until our minds and bodies demand that we pay them some very much-needed attention. Thankfully there are still people and programs in our society that's constantly on the go who are here to help us hit the breaks from time to time.

If you're one of the many caregivers who would benefit from a bit of self-care but missed out on the retreat this week, Kayleen said that the program's developer, Dan Koltz, will be back in Anaconda and the Tri-County area the week after Thanksgiving, and while I can't guarantee there'll be glitter I'm certain that whatever small things are in store will have a outsized impact on those who need it. So if you're at all interested in learning more or signing up, give the ADLC MSU Extension office a call at (406) 563-4035.

Montana Caregiver Respite Retreat Program Dates for 2024

All Respite Retreats are held from 10AM - 3PM
Registration is required
Contact Dan Koltz or Peyton Vining for more information on any retreat location

Boulder March 6

Roundup March 8

Whitehall March 20

Havre April 18, 

Lewistown April 19

Billings May 8

Flathead Reservation Elmo/Dayton May 14

Flathead Reservation Hot Springs May 15

Flathead Reservation Dixon May 16

Flathead Reservation Arlee May 17

Missoula June 11


Other locations planned, dates TBD: 

Three Forks
Big Timber
Whitefish/Columbia Falls

For more information on Gerontology Programs at MSU and MSU Extension please contact: 

Dan Koltz, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Health and Human Development
Gerontology Specialist, MSU Extension

317 Reid Hall
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717-3370
[email protected]