08/15/11 — Alzheimer's caregivers conference to be held Aug. 23

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Alzheimer's caregivers conference to be held Aug. 23

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 15, 2011 1:46 PM

In some ways, having dementia can be like navigating a carnival funhouse, where the person becomes disoriented and the brain won't cooperate.

Except that for those diagnosed with Alzheimer's, or the caregivers and family members on the sidelines, it isn't fun.

At the upcoming eighth annual Caregiver Education Conference sponsored by Alzheimer's NC Inc., attendees will get a chance to experience some of the physical and mental challenges those with dementia face.

The Virtual Dementia Tour, a hands-on simulation, has been described as a "window into the world" of those with Alzheimer's and dementia.

"This is a wonderful training tool for so many people who work with people with dementia," said Erin McAuliffe of Wayne County Services on Aging, which is acquiring the simulation tool in time for the conference.

The teaching tool was made available through Eastern Carolina Council Area Agency on Aging, she said.

"It's very much needed," Ms. McAuliffe said. "We have a respite program here (at the senior center.) I thought I could use it to help train our caregivers and that staff. We will also offer it to training at local facilities that work with people with memory loss."

It can be overwhelming to care for those with dementia, said Anne Paugh of Alzheimer's NC, an organizer of the upcoming conference.

"We want people to know that Alzheimer's NC is here for them. We can give them hope, we can give them help," she said.

The Aug. 23 conference is designed to provide tools and resources for those affected by various forms of dementia.

"I think what happens is, when the diagnosis comes, people are terrified and then they become overwhelmed with taking care of somebody," Mrs. Paugh said. "They don't find out what the resources are until somebody points them in that direction.

"The calls that I seem to be getting are families in crisis, the primary caregivers have become completely overwhelmed, it's 24/7, they don't know the direction they need to go, they don't know if the resources are going to work and they are also having to deal with tough decisions."

This year's workshop will feature guest speakers and breakout sessions as well as the opportunity to participate in the 15-minute Virtual Dementia Tour.

The location has changed from its previous site at First Pentecostal Holiness Church. It will be held at Walnut Creek Country Club, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Pre-registration is required and requested by Aug. 16. Cost is $5 for family members and caregivers, clergy members and students or volunteers. Cost for professionals is $25, with an additional $10 fee for continuing education credit. Lunch is included.

Dr. Len Lecci of UNC-Wilmington psychology department, memory assessment and research services, will be keynote speaker at 9:15 a.m. His topic will be "Dementia Myths vs. Facts: The Importance of Early Detection and the Latest Updates in the Field of Alzheimer's and Related Disorders."

Melanie Bunn, dementia training specialist with Alzheimer's NC, will speak at 2 p.m. on "What Works When? Matching Your Level of Assistance to Their Level of Dementia."

Breakout session topics include medication and pain management, navigating care options and caring for the caregiver. Exhibitors will also be on hand with resources and educational materials.

Preparations are also under way for the 10th annual Alzheimer's Walk for the Neuse Region, Mrs. Paugh said. The date of this year's event will be Oct. 22 at Wayne Community College, with the theme "Remember When -- the 1950s."

An organizational meeting is planned for Aug. 24 at noon at Herman Park Center. Volunteers and others interested in forming a team to walk that day are invited to attend the meeting. Team packets, registration brochures, posters and other information will be distributed at that time. Online registration can also be done at www.alznc.org.

For more information on the upcoming walk or the conference, contact Mrs. Paugh at apaugh@alznc.org or 252-933-4617.