The Center for Neurobehavioral Health welcomed caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia for its annual caregiver conference on Tuesday.

The conference ran from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. with an introduction and a closing by Project Director Dr. Richard Durant. More than 100 attendees gathered within the Warren Ballrooms in the Angell College Center.

The event included four speakers, which began with keynote presenter Jim Comer on “The Joys and Jolts of Caregiving.”

Comer opened his presentation by quoting former first lady Rosalynn Carter when she said, “There are only four kinds of people: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

Comer’s journey as a caregiver began in 1996, when he received a worried call from his parents’ neighbor in Dallas, Texas, who suspected that Comer’s father was having a stroke. At the time, his father was giving care to his mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“I got on a plane that day and flew back to Dallas from Los Angeles,” Comer said. “By the time I got there, he was in intensive care. He had a massive stroke.”

His father later had surgery and was checked into a rehabilitation facility. Eventually, Comer quit his job and moved back to Texas when he was 51 years old.

“It’s the best decision I ever made. It helped my parents live another 14 years.”

Comer’s speech was followed by Erica Salamida of the Alzheimer’s Association, Doris Green of the New York State Caregiving and Respite Coalition, and Susanne Murtha of Creative Healing Connections.

There were breaks in between speeches for attendees to have breakfast and lunch, which was provided to them as a part of the event. They also had the chance to talk to other caregivers as well as collect and read informative brochures. Included in the pamphlets was information about support groups and services available to caregivers.

Some of the services are provided in part by a state grant awarded to the Center for Neurobehavioral Health in November 2015. Funding from the grant started in January.

One of the services to come from the state’s funding is the Adirondack Regional Technology Center’s Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities (TRAID) program. The ARTC is one of twelve regional TRAID centers operating within New York.

The service operates to make it easier for those in need to loan assistive technology and medical equipment. Lending locations are stationed at the Senior Citizens Council of Clinton County, the Third Age Adult Day Center of Malone and SUNY Plattsburgh in Sibley Hall.

“Through part of the grant we said we would hold a caregiver conference to provide different types of education and training to caregivers in our area,” said Valerie Drown, program coordinator of the grant. “For years we’ve held a conference, but it’s always been geared toward professionals. This is our first year that we’ve really been marketing this conference to caregivers.”

For Dannemora resident Laurie Cross, this was the first caregiver event she’s attended. Cross is a part-time caregiver for her father, who was diagnosed with a form of dementia in February. Cross’s mother, a retired nurse who worked in an Alzheimer’s unit for more than 30 years, provides full-time support. Cross said it was difficult to tell in the early stages whether her father had a disease.

“Before the official diagnosis, he would do little quirky things, nothing hugely off,” Cross said. “The key thing is to reach out for help if you think there’s something wrong. Bring it to the doctor’s attention. Start the testing so that at least you can try and work through it.”

Attendee Laura Paradise said she was notified by email about the conference due to her attendance at a previous event. Paradise works for the Elizabethtown community hospital and also cares for a woman she’s known for 5 years, whom she met through a friend. She said she came to further her knowledge and her ability to care for someone who she knows is going to get worse over time.

“The two speakers I’ve listened to have helped tremendously,” Paradise said. “It’s nice to know we’re not alone.”
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Email Steve Levy at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com

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