“Caregivers are generous people,” said Aaron Van Valkenburg, manager of Aging and Disability Resources.  “Often times there is nothing they won’t do for their loved one.  However, far too often we see caregivers who simply have not taken care of themselves and are falling apart.  Taking care of themselves just falls off their agenda and then, sadly, problems arise.”

“Getting and Using Respite” is a workshop offering caregivers information about access to respite and how to make the most of their time.  Because some caregivers rarely get a break from their daily routines of meal preparation, personal care, medication management, doctor visits, housework, and financial accounting, the workshop focuses on providing exposure to a variety of support systems that make respite possible.  Getting a break for themselves – even for a few hours – is one of the most important things caregivers can do for themselves.  Without a break, caregivers can burn out resulting in poorer quality care and possible placement of their loved ones into community services such as nursing homes, foster care, or hospitals.

“Getting and Using Respite” is jointly sponsored by the Pierce County Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC), the Pierce County Coalition for Developmental Disabilities, The Arc of King County and the Respite and Crisis Care Coalition of Washington.  The workshop will be held Saturday, Sept. 29 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Soundview Building, 3611 S. D Street in Tacoma.  The presentation is free and no RSVP is required.  It is intended for anyone who is caring for a family member who is over the age of 60, an adult over 18 who has a disability, or a vulnerable child under 18 who has a disability or special need.  For additional details call the ADRC at (253) 798-4600.

Well-known newscaster Connie Thompson will headline the 2012 Alzheimer’s Caregiver Conference for Pierce County.  Thompson has been a long-time news anchor and currently produces and presents daily consumer segments for KOMO 4 NEWS at 6 p.m.

No stranger to the challenges faced by caregivers, for the past several years, Connie and her sisters have been providing the emotional, social and physical support for their mother in her daily struggle with dementia.

The free conference will include a presentation by Dr. Doug Wornell on “Challenging Behaviors,” a panel of geriatric care managers, and reflections by other family caregivers.  Service providers from throughout Pierce County will be on hand to offer information about a wide variety of community resources.

The 2012 Alzheimer’s Caregiver Conference will be held at the University Place Presbyterian Church, 8101 27th Street West, University Place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Participants must register in advance by calling (253) 798-8787.  Complimentary breakfast and lunch will be served.  There is no charge to attend.

This event is sponsored by the Health Care Providers Council and the Pierce County Aging & Disability Resource Center.

For more information about the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Conference, call the Pierce County Aging & Disability Resource Center at (253) 798-4600 or (800) 562-0332.

Bob Riler
Pierce County Aging & Disability Resources

Medicare coverage changes every year.  Everyone’s needs are different so beneficiaries have to stay on top of annual changes to make Medicare work best for them.
A presentation of “All Things Medicare” will provide a comprehensive overview of the features offered by Medicare in 2013.  The presentation will look at changes to Part A (hospitalization), Part B (outpatient), Medicare supplements, Medicare Advantage plans and Part D (prescription drug) coverage.

Medicare covers 48 million Americans – 40 million people 65 years and older as well as eight million people under 65 with various special conditions.

“Medicare is one of the most important health care tools available to older adults,” said Aaron Van Valkenburg, Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources Manager.  “But it is constantly changing and beneficiaries are now expected to be wise consumers and make annual choices.  Not doing so can result in needless personal expenses.”

“All Things Medicare” will be offered four times:

  • Sept 10 – 12:10-12:50 p.m. @ Pierce County Annex, Main Conference Room, 2401 35th Street, Tacoma
  • Sept 10 – 7 – 8 p.m. @ Jim and Carolyn Milgard Family Hope Center, 8502 Skansie Ave., Gig Harbor
  • Sept 12 – 12:10-12:50 p.m. @ County City Building, 7th Floor Rainier Conference Room, 930 Tacoma Ave., Tacoma
  • Sept 12 – 7 – 8 p.m. @ Soundview Building Conference Room, 3611 S. D Street, Tacoma

This workshop is a collaborative presentation of Pierce County Aging & Disability Resources and the SHIBA program in Pierce County.  All four presentations are free and open to the public.  No RSVPs are necessary.  For more information contact the Pierce County Aging & Disability Resource Center at (253) 798-4600 or (800) 562-0332.

Carfit participant Juli McGruder, professor emerita of occupational therapy, who is 5 foot tall. She was helped with her seating position in her Saturn (Fall 2011) Photo by Ross Mulhausen.

By Lucretia Berg

These days everyone seems to be talking about “aging in place.” But have you heard about the changes some of us need to make to ensure safe driving as we age?
The CarFit event to be held by the University of Puget Sound occupational therapy program on Tuesday, Sept. 18, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., in Tacoma may be of interest to you. CarFit is a free national program sponsored by AARP, AAA, the American Society on Aging, and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).

A primary focus of CarFit is to highlight easy changes drivers can make to their vehicles to optimize safety. During the inaugural CarFit event in 2005, when events were held in 10 cities nationwide,  it was found that 37 percent of the 300 participating drivers had a critical safety issue that needed addressing.

Changes included adjusting seat depth or height to increase the line-of-sight over the steering wheel, moving the driver’s seat back to increase the distance from the steering wheel, and adjusting head rests or rear and side view mirrors. At the upcoming half-day CarFit event, students in the final year of Puget Sound’s occupational therapy master’s program, a professor, a certified driving rehabilitation specialist, and the AARP CarFit state coordinator will take you on a tour of your car’s features and give you tips on how to adjust them to fit your individual needs.

Why are occupational therapy students involved?  Occupational therapists work in many settings, including schools, hospitals, and private homes with the goal of helping people do their day-to-day activities in the safest and most effective way. The faculty and students of the School of Occupational Therapy at University of Puget Sound offer the free CarFit program with the aim of contributing to the local community. CarFit participants, in turn, provide the students with “hands-on” experience in one of the many skills they will need in their future careers.

In a CarFit event held last October on campus, 23 drivers reviewed their personal fit within their vehicles. Participants said they valued learning how to improve their rear viewing, to position their seat  to prevent unnecessary air bag trauma, and to make adaptations that made it easier to get in and out of the vehicle. CarFit is about comfort, function, and, above all, safety of the driver.

CarFit will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 18 at the William T. and Gail T. Weyerhaeuser Center for Health Sciences, located at the corner of North 11th St. and North Lawrence St., Tacoma, on the University of Puget Sound campus. The free event will run from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Each evaluation will take about 30 minutes. Participants may make a reservation or just show up with their vehicle.

To make a reservation or for further information contact Lucretia Berg at (253) 879-1565 or at lberg@pugetsound.edu.

Lucretia Berg is a visiting clinical assistant professor of occupational therapy at University of Puget Sound.