FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | April 18, 2005
Florida Conferences Will Offer Support to Alzheimer's Caregivers and Professionals
Actress Deidre Hall Will Share Family's Experience
NEW YORK, NY—At 87-years-old, Bob Perkins of Boyton Beach, FL tackles new tasks every day: During the past few years, he began for the first time to do grocery shopping and pay household bills, and more recently, he has learned to feed, bathe and dress his wife-all things she used to be able to do herself.
Ever since his wife, Norma, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease three years ago, "my whole life has changed," said Perkins, a retired deputy city manager.
"The biggest challenge is the progression of the disease. It doesn't get better; it gets progressively worse," he said. And, as the primary caregiver, "It gets progressively more demanding as time goes on."
As an increasing number of Floridians find themselves in this role, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) will offer two separate conferences in Lake Buena Vista in early May that address the critical need for support for both caregivers and professionals to keep pace with the challenges of Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses.
One conference, called "Concepts in Care," is for family caregivers and professionals; the other, "Caring for the Community," is for executives of Alzheimer's-related agencies throughout Florida.
At both conferences, attendees will gain knowledge from prominent experts as well as insight from actress Deidre Hall, best known for creating the character of Dr. Marlena Evans on "Days of Our Lives," who will share her family's experience with the brain disorder.
For more information or to register, visit www.alzfdn.org or call toll-free 866-232-8484.
AFA is taking this double-pronged approach due to the urgency of this health issue in Florida. Currently, an estimated 500,000 residents are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and it is projected that the number of cases there will nearly double by 2030. Florida has the highest percentage of residents aged 65 and older of any state in the nation; age is the greatest risk for Alzheimer's disease, which strikes an estimated one in ten aged 65 and older and nearly one in two aged 85 and older.
"Time is of the essence to educate the public and to bolster community resources. It is essential for caregivers to reach out for help, and, moreover, for agencies to be able to handle the load when they do," said Eric J. Hall, AFA's chief executive officer.
"Concepts in Care," will be held on May 3 from 8 am to 5 pm at the Wyndham Palace Resort and Spa in the Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista. It will give both family and professional caregivers greater understanding of the brain disorder and hands-on tools that address medical, behavioral and practical care issues.
For family caregivers, sessions will include managing sexual aggression, dealing with concerns about driving, maximizing healthcare visits, and home makeovers to address safety issues. To help family members attend, AFA is offering free on-site respite care for individuals with dementia. The registration fee for family caregivers, which includes breakfast, lunch and program materials, is $30 in advance or $35 at the door.
Professionals will be able to take sessions from a professional track that qualify for continuing education units, or sign up for an all-day training program that leads to AFA's unique new qualification as a Dementia Care Provider. For professionals, the fee is $70 in advance or $85 at the door; dementia care training is $75 and requires advance registration. The fee includes breakfast and lunch.
AFA is piggybacking this meeting with a groundbreaking training conference-"Caring for the Community"-for executives of Florida-based, Alzheimer's-related organizations at the same hotel on May 2 and 3. Prominent experts will guide officials on two major fronts: how to enhance their services based on the latest understanding of the disease and appropriate treatment options for all stages; and how to bolster their organization's capacity and successful outcomes to meet the needs of more and more families, including multi-ethnic groups.
Dominick DePetrillo, executive director of the Alzheimer's Family Organization, New Port Richey, will be attending "Caring for the Community" since his agency already services about 100,000 residents with Alzheimer's disease-and is bracing for plenty more. His agency's service area contains some of Florida's fastest growing counties.
"This is an overwhelming number of people to try to service, and it's exacerbated by the fact that much of the area is rural. Lack of public transportation puts a tremendous strain on caregivers to secure health care, and greatly challenges us to reach the rural composite of our service area," DePetrillo said.
Elsewhere in Florida, Perkins is among those caregivers who consider local resources like this a lifeline. His wife attends a day services program sponsored by Alzheimer's Community Care, Inc., West Palm Beach, three days a week.
"It has been a godsend. I don't know what I'd do without it," Perkins said.
Among the experts making presentations to both audiences, Eric Pfeiffer, M.D., director of the Suncoast Gerontology Center at the University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, will discuss the state of Alzheimer's disease today, including heightened recognition of the benefits of early detection and intervention.
Noted Pfeiffer: "There are really two victims of Alzheimer's disease: the patient and the family caregiver. It would be difficult to judge who faces the greater burden. Caregivers need care too, so that they can continue to provide care to their family member."
"Caring for the Community" is being presented with an unrestricted educational grant from Forest Laboratories, Inc. Presenting sponsors for "Concepts in Care" are Ortho-McNeil Neurologics, Inc. and the Johnnie Byrd Alzheimer's Center and Research Institute.
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America is a national, nonprofit organization that focuses on care for individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses, and their families. Its services include a hotline, counseling, educational materials, local referrals, and a free caregiver magazine, Vantage™. For more information, call toll-free 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org .
Contact: Carol Steinberg