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Conference for caregivers offers insight, hope, humor

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Shelly Birkelo
January 2, 2013

— Michelle Leverence has been a caregiver most of her life.

Her paternal grandmother lived with her family when she was a child.

She was a teenage candy striper at the local health care center.

She is a pen pal to her husband's uncle, who is cognitively disabled.

She was a distance caregiver to her in-laws.

Most recently, she has become a caregiver to her father, Jerry Fredrick.

Leverence, a case manager in the oncology department for Mercy Health System, provides at least weekly hygiene maintenance for Fredrick, 77, of Milton. He suffers from prostate cancer, heart disease and Lewy body dementia.

That's why Leverence, 48, of Milton enrolled in the Rock County Council on Aging caregiver conference last year.

"It was a mini education on coping strategies to take time out to give care to yourself. If you're refreshed, then you're able to do the best job possible without feeling resentful and being overwhelmed," she said.

Leverence plans to attend this year's caregiver conference, too.

"It's never a problem to be reminded of things you already know," she said.

"When you hear something at the particular time it comes your way, you might not be ready to receive the information," Leverence said.

Leverence said the conference helped her to network with others and tap into new resources, such as Rock County benefit specialists and the First Lutheran Church loan closet.

The 2012 conference, "Finding Hope and Humor in Caregiving," is slated for Friday, Nov. 9, at the Holiday Inn Express, 3100 Wellington Place, Janesville.

Nationally known author, speaker and caregiver Elaine Sanchez is the keynote speaker.

"She is sure to inspire and entertain while sharing specific strategies on the issues of caregiving, humor and stress relief," said Julie Seeman, information and assistance specialist for the Rock County Council on Aging.

Family members, health or social services professionals and anyone in the community with an interest in caregiving issues would benefit from the conference, she said. It will offer practical ideas that can be put to use in daily home or work situations, she said.

"Some of the valuable topics include managing stress, healthy eating and exploring ways to live life to the fullest," Seeman said.

The conference is a place for people to learn about caregiver issues and to know they're not alone, she said.

"There are resources and assistance for all caregiver types, so no matter their situation—stress, guilt or worry about financial resources—they'll find commonality," she said.

Leverence hopes she'll be able to take advantage of what she might have missed last year.

"If more people become aware about things, the more they will be able to benefit. There's just so many good resources out there," she said.

"Sometimes in that (caregiver) role, you lose the meaning behind what you're doing and your purpose," Leverence said.

The conference, she said, "allows you to regain focus so when you walk away you feel good about who you are and your role."


 

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