The Three Rivers Regional Commission Caregiver Conference brought in a large number of participants and vendors – and is opening the door to additional programs.
Joy Shirley and Emily Rogers of the Three Rivers Area Agency on Aging gave a report on the conference at the most recent meeting of the Three Rivers Regional Council. The annual caregiver conference was June 21 at the Coweta County Fairgrounds.
About 400 people attended the caregiver event including caregivers, vendors and Three Rivers staff.
Rogers is the caregiver coordinator for Three Rivers.
“She’s the one who pulled it together,” said Shirley, who heads the regional aging program. “She’s the one who gets all the kudos.”
Rogers said almost the entire staff was involved in putting together the conference.
“It’s our fifth one,”Rogers said.
Rogers’ initial goal for participation was to bring in 200 caregivers. The committee planning the event urged a more ambitious goal of 250.
There was a record attendance of 280, and participants came from throughout the region. Some traveled to Newnan from as far away as Jackson and West Point.
There were 41 vendors.
“We actually had to turn some away at the end because we were afraid we wouldn’t have room,” Rogers said.
“The year before we had given out evaluations at the end of the conference,” Shirley said.
Information from that survey was used to plan this year’s program.
At the June conference, Shirley explained what the Area Agency of Aging does and offers. Robert Goldberg, an attorney from Spalding County, talked about financial planning and related issues, and Belinda Hayes, the Three Rivers Georgia Cares coordinate, gave an update on Medicare.
“This changes every year. A lot of the people in the room were people who were on Medicare or soon would be or were caring for parents," Shirley said.
Beth Dow was also a speaker.
“She lives in the region. She does lots of training,” Shirley said.
Dr. Jaami Rutledge of Ageless Grace shared fitness activities that can be done seated.
“We did not spend any Three Rivers dollars,” Rogers said.
The 41 vendors offered different levels of sponsorship and provided breakfast and lunch to participants.
There actually was $3,800 left from the $5,000 raised by the conference. Those funds will go to future conferences and respite care services, Rogers said.
Becky Baker, pastor of Jackson Presbyterian Church, approached Rogers at the conference and asked her about holding a similar program in Jackson. One training session has been done, and another Butts County event is planned where Dow and Rogers will present.
A caregiver is “someone who gives care to someone else,” Rogers said – often a husband, wife, parent or child. “We found that most caregivers don’t label themselves as caregivers.”
“Caregivers often are more likely to have their own health deadline,” Rogers said.
Caregivers frequently suffer from anxiety and depression, and it is not unusual for a caregiver to die before the person for whom they are caring.
There were 3.1 million people over age 65 in 1900, and demographers predict there will be 98.2 million in 2060.
Shirley said senior citizens are 14.5 percent of the U.S. population, 12.4 percent of Georgia’s population and 15.7 percent of the population in the Three Rivers region. Three Rivers covers the counties of Coweta, Butts, Carroll, Heard, Lamar, Meriwether, Pike, Spalding, Troup and Upson.
There are 50 million caregivers in the United States, most unpaid, “caring for family members, caring for friends, neighbors,” Shirley said.
“Everybody wants to age in their homes. They want to stay in their homes and stay in their communities,” Shirley said.
The Three Rivers aging staff have partnered with Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving at Georgia Southwestern University since 1999. The partnership offers resources and the availability of grants.
“We do ‘train the trainer,’ so we can bring some of the information back,” Shirley said.
Caregiving has many facets. While people usually think of adults caring for aging parents, there also are older parents caring for disabled children. A new Rosalynn Carter Institute focus is on caregiving for veterans.
“There’s definitely a need to have something like the caregiver conference,” Rogers said.
The Three Rivers Regional Council met Aug. 23 at the Walter B. Hill Community Center in Turin.