Wellness for Caregivers Conference

Posted: Sunday, March 15, 2009

Since caring for an older person can be emotionally or physically demanding, family caregivers need support and information to stay healthy themselves and survive what could be a "long haul."

Family caregivers include friends, neighbors, adult children, spouses and other family members who are not paid but nonetheless provide valuable care for elders to help them remain at home for as long as possible. Information and services for family caregivers may protect the whole family, including its finances.

The Tlingit & Haida Elders Caregivers Council is offering the 2009 Wellness for Caregivers Conference from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall. The conference is made possible by an Older Americans Act Title VI Part C Grant geared toward Native elders and their family caregivers. The event is free of charge and will offer a variety of information designed to ease care giving.

THECC Elderly Services Coordinator Andrea Ebona-Michel will open the Conference with introductions and a presentation on Optimum Health. Keynote Speaker Thomas Angell will inform the participants about Ionways: Vibrant Health Water. Representatives from the State of Alaska will then talk about elder abuse prevention and services available through Medicaid and the Medicaid Waiver Program.

Holly Handler, an attorney with Alaska Legal Services, will discuss the importance of the durable power of attorney for both the elder and the family caregiver and will answer questions about Miller Trusts. Next, Andrea Ebona-Michel and the Litseeni K U.oo Fitness Group will lead Conference participants in chair exercises.

A catered lunch will be provided at noon, complete with door prizes and a chance to visit the various information tables offering resources for family caregivers. In addition to written materials, assistive devices, home modification resources, and health monitoring equipment will be available at the tables. Maintaining one's physical and emotional well-being as well as an accessible home, free of hazards is key to safety, health, and assisting family caregivers support elders at home for as long as possible.

Beginning at 1 p.m., participants will be able to choose from the following concurrent workshops: "Tools for Caregivers/Lifting Safely," presented by Cornerstone; Healing From Grief," Hospice & Home Care; "Dealing With Dementia," Merritt Andruss, geriatric nurse practitioner; "Living Wills/Durable Power of Attorney," Holly Handler, ALSC; "Alzheimer's Services," Amber Smith of ADRAA; and "Preventing and Resolving Family Conflicts," Nils Dihle, licensed professional counselor for SESS.

At 2 p.m., participants may switch to a different workshop. Julie Bailey, Assistant Long Term Care Ombudsman for the State of Alaska, also will give a presentation on preventing elder abuse. In response to participants' questions, the speakers will offer helpful tips for preventing or managing difficult and stressful situations.

"The workshops are specifically designed to give family caregivers valuable information and practical tips to ease their work and worries," Andrea Ebona-Michel said. "Through this Conference, we want to help families to provide the best care possible for our precious elders."

All elders and family caregivers are encouraged to attend. For further information about the conference, contact Ebona-Michel at 463-7168.

• Marianne Mills is the program director of Southeast Senior Services, which offers a variety of home and community based services for older Alaskans throughout Southeast Alaska. SESS is a program division of Catholic Community Service which assists all persons regardless of their faith.

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