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A powerhouse of support for caregivers

SCV Senior Center offers resources for men and women who provide care for dependent adults

Posted: May 31, 2009 10:00 p.m.
Updated: June 1, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Judy Harris speaks to SCV Senior Center volunteer peer counselors about the challenges of getting older. Harris, who facilitates numerous support groups at the Senior Center, including one for caregivers, will be a keynote speaker at Caregiver Resource Day on June 20.

For the legion of men and women who provide care for dependent loved ones, helpful caregiving-related information can be a veritable lifesaver.

On Saturday, June 20, at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, the Supportive Service's Department's annual Caregiver Resource Day will offer a wellspring of such empowerment.

There, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the free symposium will arm attendees with news about the latest research and therapies in treating Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, presented by leading scientists in those special fields.

A discussion on caregiving as well as an array of caregiving-related vendors, breakfast and drawings will be on tap.

With Comfort Keepers In-Home Care as its title sponsor, the event will feature the following keynote speakers:

n Joshua Grill, Ph.D., director of the Katherine and Benjamin Kagan Alzheimer's Disease Treatment Development Program at UCLA's Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research, who will discuss recent strides in Alzheimer's research, including clinical trials.

Grill, also Associate Director of the Deane F. Johnson Center for Neurotherapeutics at UCLA, earned his doctorate in Neuroscience in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

His areas of expertise include neurobiological changes that accompany normal aging and disease, with current research focused on testing new treatments for Alzheimer's disease.

n Research Scientist Dr. James Makous, who leads the Deep Brain Stimulation Program for Parkinson's at Boston Scientific Neuromodulation in Valencia, will deliver an overview of Parkinson's research and an upcoming clinical trial expected to begin in 2010, as well as discuss pain management.

Makous, who earned his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in Neurophysiology and completed post-doctoral fellowships at Syracuse University and Washington University (St. Louis), evaluates new technology as a core member of Boston Scientific's Emerging Indications team.

He also provides expert field technical support for their ‘Precision' Pain Management system.

n Psychotherapist and mental health consultant Judith Harris, who facilitates numerous support groups at the Senior Center, will moderate the event and talk about the challenges associated with caregiving.

True to Harris' penchant for identifying humor and silver linings amid life's potholes - or teaching people how to "suffer in style" as she calls it - the veteran therapist, teacher and grief counselor will address the need for finding humor and meaning in caregiving.

n Myles McNamara, owner of Comfort Keepers In-Home Care, will discuss the safety factors and peace-of-mind attainable through securing skilled, reliable, and professional caregiving help in the home.

With a complimentary breakfast provided by Pacifica Senior Living Santa Clarita - which offers independent and assisted living - the event will also feature an array of community resources and caregiving-related vendors.

Among them, Mobile Masseur Jim Vang will offer free massages during program breaks.

The Alzheimer's Association reports that a new case of Alzheimer's is diagnosed every 70 seconds.

The leading cause of dementia, Alzheimer's destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies and social life.

Alzheimer's, which is eventually fatal, currently affects some 5.3 million Americans and accounts for nearly 10 million unpaid family caregivers in this nation.

Also a progressive brain disorder, Parkinson's affects nerve cells, causing loss of the vital chemical dopamine, which allows for smooth, coordinated function of muscles and movement.

According to the American Parkinson Disease Association, key signs of the condition include shaking (tremor), slowness in moving, stiffness (rigidity), and difficulty with balance.

Parkinson's affects about 1.5 million Americans today, and some 60,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.

SuzAnn Nelsen, director of supportive services at the Senior Center, said useful information with some physical and comical relief thrown in is just what the doctor ordered for this year's Caregiver Resource Day.

"Caregivers endure tremendous psychological and physical responsibilities," Nelsen said. "Their need for up-to-date medical and scientific news pertinent to the conditions of those they give care to, as well as utilizing ways to protect their own well-being is crucial."

Caregiving is intense, responsibility-filled, stressful and draining.

Factor into that scenario the reality of who most often provides care to dependent adult loved ones.

Frequently it's the senior spouse with his or her own age, health, emotional and financial issues to deal with.

Caregivers are oftentimes also middle-aged "children" with families and busy careers to manage.

Research has actually shown that all too frequently caregivers "wear out" and die from the demands placed on them before those they provide care for expire.

Candye Rucker, a psychotherapist in private practice who also works as a Supportive Services case manager at the Senior Center, said caregivers need all the assistance and support they can get.

"The role of a caregiver is a noble and difficult job," Rucker said. "Too many caregivers spend all of their energies meeting the needs of their loved ones, but unfortunately, when you give all of yourself in the process, the one who suffers is the caregiver, and becoming ‘self-less' results. Caregivers need to take care of themselves first so they have the health and endurance to do the job."
Caregivers in the community are strongly encouraged to attend Caregiver Resource Day, Nelsen said.

"We would love to have a packed room at this event. It will empower everyone with information and tools, while recommending ways to stay healthy and best capable of providing that continuous care," she said.

Vendor and Sponsor Information
Attendance is projected to be 75-125 people - most of them are family caregivers.

Sponsors receive: Business name on 1,000 flyers that will be distributed throughout the community; business name listed in newspaper ad (check must be received by June 12 for ad deadline); business name in event program; choice of table location on first-come, first-served basis.

The event and vendor displays will be held in the Senior Center's spacious dining room. Sponsor levels are $500 (title) and $250 (platinum).

Sponsorships go directly to offsetting seminar costs and helping with advertising expenses.

Vendors receive a table to promote their business, with business name listed in the program.

Vendor tables cost $100 each, but tables can be shared for $50 per vendor.

The SCV Senior Center is located at 22900 Market Street in Newhall.

Respite care is available that day but reservations must be made in advance to guarantee that assistance. For further information/registration contact SuzAnn Nelsen or Diana Sevanian at (661) 255-1588 or e-mail at, or fax at (661) 255-6069.


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