Caregiver Conference will present resources to support loved ones with dementia

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An upcoming Lawrence forum aims to educate caregivers on in-home services to help those with dementia maintain their independence.

Caregivers such as spouses, adult children and other loved ones of seniors living with dementia are the target audience for the event on Thursday, April 13, according to Michele Dillon, caregiver support specialist for Jayhawk Area Agency on Agency Inc. JAAA is lead sponsor for the forum.


“It is ways to keep them at home longer, because that’s where they’re happier, and it’s going to be less expensive for them in the long run,” Dillon said. “But if they have to be placed (in long-term care), what that looks like and how you find the good fit, so it’s kind of gonna run that gamut.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to dementia as “a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the United States. Most studies indicate older Black people are nearly twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older white people, and some studies show Hispanic people are one and a half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older white people, according to a 2019 report by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Dillon, who has worked most of the last decade and a half at JAAA, said she’s witnessed during her career beneficial changes in the field of geriatric care and management, in which she’s certified.

“They understand the behaviors and how to treat those. I actually started out in a nursing home back in the ‘90s, and when somebody had dementia, you would usually just give them a drug because we didn’t want to deal with behavior,” Dillon said. “So I think everybody is much more educated now on how to treat the person and understanding that it’s a disease process, and that isn’t the person. And so, learning how to treat those behaviors, so that we have less psychotropic drugs being used.”

While providers and agencies have improved the care they provide, caregivers also have grown more accepting of learning how the disease progresses and how to handle it by receiving education beforehand, “rather than living in the moment,” Dillon said.

“So overall, a good thing,” she said. “We still need a lot more in-home care providers. And it needs to not be so expensive.”

The morning program begins at 9 a.m. with the keynote address, “The Future of Home Care,” delivered by Dan Goodman, executive director for Lawrence-based Kansas Advocates for Better Care.

At 11:45 a.m., a panel discussion with lunch will feature caregivers at different stages of care and offer “a support group” of sorts.

“People will be able to ask them questions about their caregiving journey,” Dillon said. “They’re personally invested in it. Lots of different varieties of knowledge.”

Breakout sessions before and after lunch will be offered as follows, according to the agenda:

10 a.m. sessions: 

  • Dementia behaviors
  • Medicaid eligibility options
  • Advocating for a loved one
  • Advanced directives and Transportable Physician Orders for Patient Preferences (TPOPP Program)

1 p.m. sessions:

  • Maintaining independence with dementia
  • Decision-making capacity
  • Daily living skills to increase independence
  • Recreation and music therapy

A full list of presenters is listed in the agenda below. Six hours of information will be shared with attendees, but participants do not have to attend the entire day, Dillon said. Without respite care available, Dillon recognized some caregivers would encounter obstacles to being separated for an extended period of time from those in their care. She invited loved ones who can only attend a portion of the conference to do so.

Dillon said she hoped to record the event and post it on the JAAA YouTube channel later. She estimated 40 people have registered.

In-person registration for the Caregiver Conference begins at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, April 13. The program runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at First Southern Baptist Church, 4300 W. Sixth St. The church has donated use of its facilities, presenters have donated their expertise, and Bridge Haven will provide food for the event at no cost, according to Dillon.

To register in advance for the free conference, call Dillon at 785-235-1367 or email her at To help estimate food counts, Dillon requests participants register by 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 11, if possible. Drop-in attendees are welcome as well.

“I only need to count for lunch, so they can come in and for one or two (hours) if they want and they can’t do the whole day,” Dillon said.


Note: This post has been updated to reflect itinerary changes from organizers.

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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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