By Sue Lindsey

Pat Jones Scott’s mission is preparing others to take care of disabled loved ones.

“I will go wherever I’m needed to talk about caregiving,” said Scott, 73, of Mechanicsville, a volunteer who leads several workshops a year based on AARP’s Prepare to Care: A Planning Guide for Families.

Scott believes caregivers should be trained in what to expect—preparation she didn’t have when her husband, Joe Scott, then 76, suffered a stroke just six weeks after their wedding in October 2014.

The only guidance she had in navigating the life change of caring for her husband was the advice of medical staff.

“You just fall in line, as you move day by day,” Pat Scott said.

A state Department of Health survey in 2015 showed that 1 in 5 Virginia adults had provided care or assistance in the previous month to a friend or family member who was living with a health problem or disability.

AARP Virginia is helping sponsor several conferences to support caregivers as part of November’s National Family Caregivers Month and is offering more than 50 caregiving-related events this year. Information about the events is posted on its website, aarp.org/va.

Music hits the right note

Lindsey Vajpeyi, director of education and outreach at Insight Memory Care Center, an adult day facility in Fairfax, is a believer in the transformative power of music.

Vajpeyi helped organize the Dementia Caregivers Conference this month in Alexandria, which will feature presentations by experts on aging and a performance by the Forgetful Friends Chorus, whose members are adults with dementia and their caregivers.

“When someone listens to music that’s important to them, it brings them back to earlier times,” Vajpeyi said. “When we can sing together or dance together, that’s a good way to still connect with our loved ones.”

Music helped Carmen Pastor better care for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease. Pastor, president and cofounder of Fuerza Contra Alzheimer’s, offers monthly workshops for patients, caregivers and family members.

Pastor, 61, gave up her advertising career to be her mother’s caregiver 10 years ago. “When she would start to get agitated or angry, we found that music would calm her down,” she said. After they moved to a retirement community, Pastor said her mother became “the queen of karaoke.”

Givers Need care, too

The desire to make caregiving easier prompted Anita White to persuade the Luncheon Pilot Club of Danville to hold a workshop in September with AARP Virginia and other partners.

White, 60, a retired Army colonel, had no experience as a family caregiver when she moved home to Danville in 2016 to care for her mother, who had dementia. Her mother passed away last year, but White now cares for her 88-year-old father and a brother with cerebral palsy.

Amy Goyer, AARP family and caregiving expert and author of the book Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving, was the workshop’s keynote speaker.

Caregivers need to take time off to go for a walk, see a movie or even have a few days’ break, Goyer said. “Caring for yourself while you care for others is essential.”

For November events related to caregiving around Virginia, go to states.aarp.org/vaevents/.

Sue Lindsey is a writer living in Roanoke, Virginia.