Powerful Tools for Caregivers

Primary Practice

In-person psychoeducational self-care program


Powerful Tools for Caregivers is six-week self-care psychoeducational training program for family and friends caring for older adults with cognitive and chronic impairments. In the six weekly classes, caregivers develop a wealth of self-care tools to: reduce personal stress; change negative self-talk; communicate their needs to family members and healthcare or service providers; communicate more effectively in challenging situations; recognize the messages in their emotions, deal with difficult feelings; and make tough caregiving decisions. Classes are typically 2.5 hours and consist of groups of 10-15 caregivers.

Powerful Tools is based on a train-the-trainer model for community-based organizations with a detailed, scripted curriculum. Caregiver classes are co-led by certified, trained class leaders. Training for class leaders is a two-day training conducted by master trainers.

Powerful tools was developed by Legacy Caregiver Services and Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging in Portland, Oregon. It originated through grant funding in 1998 and is based on the highly successful model of the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program developed by Kate Lorig and colleagues at Stanford University.

Training for class leaders, master trainers, and curriculum materials are managed through a central hub. Trainings are held throughout the year in different locations. Costs vary, including licensing fees.

Target Population(s)

Family caregivers of older adults; a version of the program for family caregivers of children with special needs is being developed and tested.


Initiated through grant funding, the program has been offered for over 12 years. Currently, over 2,200 class leaders have been trained in 36 states. Since the program’s inception, Powerful Tools for Caregivers materials have reached over 80,000 caregivers.


To improve self-care behaviors, management of emotions, self-efficacy, and use of community resources

Evidence of Outcomes

Evidence-Based Practice
Several evaluations and studies have been conducted on the Powerful Tools for Caregivers program, including one using a quasi-experimental design. The intervention is widely used in multiple sites with a high level of fidelity.

Boise, Congleton, & Shannon (2005) evaluated the program using pre, post, and 6-month follow-up surveys. Class participants rated the classes very positively, reported high use of the tools taught during the series, and showed significant improvements in self-efficacy, emotional well-being, and self-care behaviors.

Won, Fitts, Favaro, Olsen, & Phelan (2008) used pre and post-test surveys to study the impact on health-risk behaviors, self-care, and psychological well-being among 118 adult caregivers who participated in western Washington state between July 2001 and June 2004, about half of whom were aged 65 or older. Health-risk behaviors were reduced and self-care and psychological well-being improved significantly.

Savundranayagam, Montgomery, Kosloski, & Little (2010) used a quasi-experimental design to study the impact of the program on caregiver burden of spouse caregivers. Participants in the PTC group reported significantly lower levels of stress and objective burden than the comparison group.

Kuhn, Hollinger-Smith, Presser, Civian, & Batsch, N. (2008) conducted an exploritory study to assess an interative online version of the program.

Pilot studies have been done to test an adaptation of the program for the families of children with special needs. Preliminary findings from these pilots suggests that the same outcomes are achieved.

Additional Information

Powerful Tools for Caregiving website: www.powerfultoolsforcaregiving.org


Boise, L., Congleton, L., & Shannon, K. (2005). Empowering family caregivers: the Powerful Tools for Caregiving Program. Educational Gerentology, 31(7), 573-586.

Kuhn, D., Hollinger-Smith, L., Presser, J., Civian, J., & Batsch, N. (2008). Powerful tools for caregivers online: an innovative approach to support employees. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 23, 51-69.

Savundranayagam, M. Y., & Brintnall-Peterson, M. (2010). Testing self-efficacy as a pathway that supports self-care among family caregivers in a psychoeducational intervention. Journal of Family Social Work, 13, 149-162.

Savundranayagam, M., Montgomery, R., Kosloski, K., & Little, T. (2011). Impact of a psychoeducational program on three types of caregiver burden among spouses. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 388-396.

Won, C., Fitts, S., Favaro, S., Olsen, P., & Phelan, E. (2008). Community-based “powerful tools” intervention enhances health of caregivers. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 46(1), 89-100.