Be Kind to the Caregiver

The Face to Face Advisory Council hosts the 10th Annual Face to Face Family and Friends Caregiver Festival to create a learning experience for families and caregivers of the elderly.

By: Dr. Nestor H. Praderio

Sept. 9, 2016, marks a significant milestone. On that day, the Face to Face Advisory Council and I will host our 10th Annual Face to Face Family and Friends Caregiver Festival. The event will blend traditional features such as my opening general session, greetings from local and state officials, the “Ask the Experts” panel session and our newly introduced interactive Family Caregiver Roundtable. This engaging and enlightening colloquium has become a favorite of mine. Related topic themes stimulate a guided group discussion to impart the bliss and anguish of the caregiving odyssey.

The event is a coordinated effort to recognize family caregivers and facilitate an opportunity for them to unify and learn not only from us, but from each other. The education platform is designed for family caregivers to learn more about their roles and the intricate problems of providing care for individuals with dementia. It is also a time to celebrate the ebb and flow of caregiving. We conclude in a festive mode with music, dancing and lots and lots of smiles.

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The general public is invited to attend this event, which will be held at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi. Educational sessions will run from 8 a.m. to noon and conclude with a dance festival from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. At our Respite & Activity Station, student nurses and professional staff will provide respite support for family caregivers through supervised activities for their loved ones so that the caregivers may attend the education sessions.

While I take much pride in the success, challenges and progress of my practice, I find an overwhelming sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in connecting with family caregivers. Even from my early days at Yale University, I knew I wanted to influence not only my patients, but also their families, other medical students and the community. I embraced a holistic approach to treatment and a fervor for education, training and collaboration. I then embarked on a quest to erase the stigma of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and to stimulate legitimate support for family caregivers.

In fall 2006, I convened a group of dedicated professionals representing state and municipal governments and institutions of higher education who shared my vision in developing a unified strategy for supporting family caregivers. This led to the formation of the Coastal Bend Caregiver Coalition, now known as the Face to Face Advisory Council, to reach out to family caregivers to provide tools, tips and techniques in caring for their loved ones and expand access for available resources.

In August 2007, we hosted the first Face to Face Family and Friends Caregiver Festival. Approximately 75 percent of event expenses are financed by our exhibitors. Their participation has enabled us to present a high-quality education program, continental breakfast, lunch, a dance festival and door prizes at no cost to the attendees. The family caregivers have an opportunity to visit with exhibitors to learn about products and services from long-term care facilities, home health and hospice agencies, durable medical equipment and health insurance representatives, family caregiver services, state agencies and others.

I presented a session on compassionate caregiving and addressed the importance of demonstrating compassion for those we love and care for – but equally of importance is to have compassion for ourselves. Learning how to “share the care” is a good strategy to avoid compassion fatigue and possibly reinforce a positive relationship with our loved one.

The keynote luncheon speaker was Pepe Serna, actor and artist. Through humor and tears, he shared how his family was learning to cope with the reality of his father’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s. And then, they danced – the moves, the smiles, the memories.  I knew we had to make this an annual affair.

It has been gratifying to reflect on our progress of the past 10 years. A pivotal accomplishment was achieved in 2008 when Face to Face LLC was established as a certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to provide “education, resources and respite for caregivers” for the Coastal Bend community. We foster five core initiatives to generate resources and support services for family caregivers.

I am grateful for the community’s support of the Face to Face Alzheimer’s Education and Support Program, the Coastal Bend Walk for Memory, Memories on Canvas, National Memory Screening Day (in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America project) and the Face to Face Family and Friends Caregiver Festival.

Family caregivers often express a desire to know how to provide the best care for their loved one. I suggest learning all you can about the illness, adapt to the caregiving process and be kind to the caregiver.

This article was written by Nestor H. Praderio, M.D., founder of Face to Face LLC. For more information, call 361-238-7777. Sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities for the festival are available. To learn more, visit www.texasfacetoface.com or www.facebook.com/texasfacetoface.

Photos courtesy of Face to Face, LLC

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