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Who's taking care of the caregiver?

Symposium at the Senior Center addresses needs of caregivers

Posted: June 27, 2008 3:17 a.m.
Updated: August 28, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Brenda Avadian and her husband on a hike in Yosemite. Though she lives with the risk of Alzheimer's, Avadian tries to maintain a rigorous adventuresome spirit and a sense of humor in life.

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She's your mother and yet she calls you by her dead sister's name as you schlep her from doctor's appointment to pharmacy to grocery store. You treated her to a nice lunch half an hour ago but she keeps asking when you are going to eat. She remembers things that didn't happen and gives you a blank look when you talk about the important ones that did. And you have to repeat everything you say to her, very loudly, because she seems to have lost her hearing aid - again. You're tired, frustrated and in danger of losing your job because of all the time you spend helping her.

You're a caregiver, Bunky, and you need a break.

Here's where you can catch one.

This Saturday the SCV Senior Center will host Caregiver's Resource Day from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Here you will be put in touch with the community resources you need. The half-day symposium will help attendees learn new skills to manage the stresses and frustrations of caregiving, how to reestablish control over their own lives, plan for the future and manage the difficult behaviors of loved ones.

The keynote speaker for the symposium will be Brenda Avadian, MA, with her presentation "Can I survive as a caregiver? And, by the way, is it too much to ask for a sprinkle of JOY?" Other speakers will include Dr. Michael Holt, discussing "How to take control of your stress," and Myles McNamara of Comfort Keepers In-Home Care discussing "The cautions in hiring home help." The program will be facilitated by caregiver specialist Judith Harris, M.F.T. Along the way there will be a continental breakfast, prize drawings, workshops and information stations for a number of caregiving-related organizations.

While the symposium will offer valuable information and insights, the mood will be one of relaxation and fun. A caregiver herself, Brenda Avadian is the author of eight books, four of which are on the lighter side of caregiving, including the "Finding the JOY" series, in which caregivers share the joyful times in order to "dry their tears with laughter." She will be signing copies of her book, "‘Where's my shoes?' My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's" during the first two hours of the symposium. It is a real-time unfolding of her caregiving experience, and the question in the title is what her father incessantly repeated.

Avadian also hosts the TheCaregiversVoice.com Web site, which provides a wealth of resources and support for caregivers. The following are excerpts from the site:

"During the past decade, we've witnessed a 25 percent increase in Alzheimer's. Today, reports estimate that 5 million Americans live with this disease, up from 4 million a decade earlier. Projecting these numbers forward, we're looking at 6,250,000 Americans being diagnosed with Alzheimer's by 2017 - unless there's a cure.

"As a member of the Baby Boom generation, I cannot imagine a more active group of people being stricken with this disease. Yet, this figure will reach epidemic proportions. Each of us will be affected - as a caregiver, as a family member, or even as one who receives the diagnosis.

"Research has made great strides over the years, but until this disease is stopped, ask yourself, ‘Can it happen to me? Am I prepared? Are the families I serve prepared? Do I know where to turn for help?'

"After my father was diagnosed with dementia, and unable to live independently, my husband and I moved him from his Wisconsin home of 45 years into our Los Angeles-area home. We were totally unprepared for caregiving; living fast-paced career-oriented lives and slowing down enough only to eat one meal a day and to take care of our cats. What we needed most was to be able to call someone who could answer all our medical, legal, emotional, nutritional, physical, and ethical questions. At each step, we questioned ourselves. ‘What do we do? Are we making the right decision? Is this what my father would want?'

"Today, much more is known about dementia...."

These issues and more will be addressed during the Caregiver's Resource Day symposium.

On-site or in-home respite care will be available on a limited "as needed" basis during the event. Call (661) 255-1588 as soon as possible to make reservations. The SCV Senior Center is located at 22900 Market St. in Newhall.

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