This year’s Caregiver’s College lived up to its #CaregiversConnect theme for more than 300 people who experienced a daylong event filled with education and self-care activities. As a result, new Caregiver Support Group is planned for those who attended the event, said it’s organizer, Lydia Weeks, coordinator of TARCOG’s Alabama Cares Program.
“The development of the support group is important because it allows Alabama Cares to identify caregivers that require additional support throughout the year,” Weeks said. “Since Caregiver College only happens once a year, the goal is to create a space for family caregivers to connect, share their personal experiences, participate in activities that promote relaxation and self-care.”
As part of National Family Caregivers Month, on Nov. 17, attendees gathered for the TARCOG event from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Willowbrook at Madison church campus on Jeff Road in Huntsville. Co-hosts for the event included the Alabama Cooperative Extension Systems and The Legacy Center.
In its eighth year, attendees traveled to Huntsville from as far away as Montgomery and Tuskegee. A special highlight of the event included a $1,000 donation to TARCOG to support self-care services for family caregivers donated by the families of Dr. Tonya (Jackson) Davis in honor of her mother, Brenda Jackson.
Protecting against fraud were prominent issues addressed with attendees learning strategies on how to defend themselves and others against fraudsters from morning keynote speaker, Nick Vonderau, education and public affairs manager, Alabama Securities Commission, and Dave Morrow, AARP Alabama Fraud Watch volunteer, who spoke in the closing general session. Takeaways included information on preventing identity theft and information to make informed decisions regarding investments, insurance and other decisions.
The lunch keynote address was presented by Dr. Nicole Ruggiano, professor and associate dean of research at the University of Alabama-Alabama Caregiver Connect. She focused on support and resources available for people dementia and their care partners. Takeaways included learning how commercially available technologies can be used to support people with dementia and their caregivers, how to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of using various technologies for caregiving purposes, and important factors to consider when adopting a new technology for caregiving.
There were 20 Caregiver College faculty members, including four at the doctorate level. Topics covered included Mental Wellness and Nutrition, All about Medicare, Parts A, B, C and D, Suicide Prevention for Caregivers, Entering the World of Caregiving, Self-Care for Caregivers, Estate Planning Basics, Medication Safety at Home, and Mental Health and Substance Abuse. Attendees had an opportunity to destress with interactive painting, journaling and holiday ornament creations classes.
Also adding to the educational experience were 31 exhibitors offering additional materials about products and services that support caregivers.
Volunteers played a key role in the event, Weeks said, thanking WAAY TV-31 News Anchors Demetria Green and Marie Waxel, who shared emcee duties throughout the day, along with Alabama A&M University student volunteers from the Honors Program and the School of Education, the Epsilon Gamma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., The Links, Inc., and other community members.