55 PLUS - Caregivers can network, share info at conference

The Aging and Long Term Care Caregiver Conference will be Nov. 3 in Walla Walla.

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Getting together, sharing time and ideas can give caregivers a mental and emotional boost.

For unpaid family caregivers there are plenty of resources available to help.

An opportunity to learn about those resources is through the annual Aging and Long Term Care Caregiver Conference. It will be 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center.

According to Mary Cleveland, program coordinator at ALTC, the focus for this year's conference is the unpaid family caregiver. Emphasis is on the family members who provide most of the care for aging or incapacitated relatives. The conference provides an opportunity for caregivers to take a break, network with others, get more information and connect with more community resources.

Sometimes it's helpful to know there are others in a similar situation. Participants can share information and insight, meet people and make friends.

It's important that individuals providing care be cognizant of their own emotional and physical needs. They should not allow themselves to get run down and more susceptible to illness.

Aging and oral health are key subjects this year. The topic will be presented by Kathy Medford, R.N. and ALTC's nursing program manager.

"She's a very engaging speaker. She's very passionate and caring," Cleveland said.

"I don't think people really know how tied in it is to our overall health," Cleveland explained. "I know of people who desperately need heart surgery or hip replacement and can't get the surgery because their dental health is so bad. It is an entry point to the body for bacteria so it's really critical to maintain oral health. We are gathering information to get a sense of the health of the people we serve. Sometimes people think it's a little odd to talk about their teeth, but it's very important."

The duration of the conference this year is shortened, down to four hours from the usual six, in the last few years. "Since it is for the family caregiver, most of them can't be away that long. This way they don't have to worry about having to leave or how much they're paying for a caregiver in their place." This year's conference is designed to be informative, but also low key and fun. "There will be time for talking, networking and door prizes. It used to be a continuing education credit so it was very driven to be six hours, now it has a different focus."

In addition to the segment on oral health the conference will include other topics and information displays. "We will have some kind of self care, stress relief," said Cleveland.

"We want to give them some education they can use, some type of self care for stress relief and we will have display booths for an opportunity to learn about community resources. They will also have an opportunity to talk to each other and meet others in the same situation and be supportive of one another."

Also it's some time away to focus on learning and have some fun. A complimentary lunch will be offered.

There is no charge for the conference but pre registration is required. Call 509-529-6470 to reserve a place at the session.

Karlene Ponti can be reached by calling 509-526-8324 or by e-mail at karleneponti@wwub.com.

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