M4A hosts caregiver workshop

Caregivers of patients who require long-term care often requires long hours and vast responsibility, but the Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging (M4A)’s Ombudsman program works toward providing resources to improve the process, like the caregiver workshop July 22 that included several speakers, delicious lunch and even a luau.

“It’s a proactive way of improving life in long-term care facilities,” said Jodi Beth Posey, one of the Ombudsmen who have coordinated this event for the past four years. “It’s our fourth annual and every year it’s grown,” she said.

More than150 people in the care-giving industry registered for this year’s event, including staff from long-term care and home-health facilities, as well as individuals who are caregivers for family members.

“Our goal is that attendees can implement what they learn immediately,” Posey said.

Those who attended the workshop were able to choose which events to attend, with options such as a morning seminar on sexuality in nursing homes from speaker Stephanie Geller and breakaway sessions on Medicaid and dementia.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Richard Taylor, spoke after lunch on humanizing dementia.

Taylor, who was diagnosed with dementia seven years ago, has traveled all over the world spreading awareness about dementia. Last year he went to Singapore to speak, and he recently returned from a trip to New Zealand.

“People with dementia often feel like they’ve lost their purpose,” he said. “It turns out there aren’t very many people who have Alzheimer’s going around talking about it. That’s why I get dressed up in a suit and go speak at things like this. I made it my purpose.”

Taylor recently published a book called “Alzheimer’s: From the Inside Out,” which is a collection of his writings and musings that he does nightly to help him remember the events and thoughts of the previous day.

“I think people have the wrong perspective of people with dementia,” he said. “They see them as sick or half-full, but we’re all here.”

He said it’s important for friends and family members of people with dementia to continue to talk to them and engage them in meaningful conversation.

“When you meet someone with dementia, you need to say hello to them,” Taylor said. “Not goodbye.”

In the afternoon, the Ombudsmen hosted a “Luau for Excellence,” which honored nursing assistants. The entire event was tropically-themed, with event helpers wearing flower leis to help distinguish them.

“With the aging of the baby boomer generation, we’re understanding that care-giving is paramount,” said Stacy Farry, the other Ombudsman who coordinated the event.

“We’re passionate about the quality of life and we’re helping them live, not just exist,” she said.