Judy Rough, of Society of Certified Senior Advisors, will be a speaker at the upcoming caregiving symposium. Photo by Rose Cromwell

By Danica Lucker

More than half a million Coloradans care for an older parent, spouse or other relative. Many of them were thrust into the role without adequate time or information to be ready.

“Many times, it comes about because of crisis,” said Judy Rough, senior director of strategic alliances at the Society of Certified Senior Advisors in Denver. “And being thrown into something you are not prepared for doesn’t usually get you the best results.”

Rough will be one of six speakers at “Navigating the Journey of Caregiving” on Thursday, April 26, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd. in Arvada.

Presented by AARP Colorado, the symposium will feature TED-like talks on caregiving. Audience members will get the chance to create an Atlas CareMap—a strategy for mapping out resources to help them.

“The symposium is an opportunity for caregivers to learn from featured speakers and from each other about what they can do to deliver the best care possible while keeping themselves healthy,” said Jeremiah Mora, AARP Colorado associate state director.

He noted that “if the caregiver doesn’t have support, their loved ones suffer. It’s a tough job.”

Jane W. Barton, author of Caregiving for the Genius, said caregivers need support to prevent burnout.

“We have to recognize and address the needs of the caregivers themselves,” said Barton, a nationally recognized expert on caregiving and aging who will facilitate the symposium. “If they start to decline, it doesn’t do anyone any good.”

Finding help when needed

Approximately 60 percent of caregivers today are employed full time, Barton said. This means that between their jobs and home life, they’re busy and stressed. It’s not uncommon in these situations for caregivers to develop their own physical, emotional or mental issues.

“Even a half day, like we’ll be having at the symposium, is a break. It’s a chance to remind them that self-care is crucial, to be able to talk to others who are feeling like they are and to know that it’s OK. They can ask for help,” Barton said.

The Society of Certified Senior Advisors educates and has lists of certified professionals who work with older adults. Consumers can use an online locator to help them build a support team of these professionals.

For example, if you need to hire a contractor to install handrails or ramps in your house, you’ll want to find someone who knows how to do it properly. If you need to find a specialist, you’ll want to find that person quickly, not hunt for names and answers.

At the symposium, Rosalyn Reese, director of diversity and inclusion at the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, will discuss options for caregivers whose family members are battling Alzheimer’s, now the sixth leading cause of death nationwide.

The Alzheimer’s Association has a 24/7 Help Line that fields 300,000 calls a year. In Colorado, the Alzheimer’s Association has eight offices and 90 support groups serving the state. The help is free. The Alzheimer’s Association has 70 chapters in all 50 states.

Families of those with the disease often face the hardships of caring for someone who might not be able to communicate anymore or whose behavior has changed, in addition to taking care of their physical needs.

“The caregiver’s stress is significant, and they need support and education,” Reese said.

The Alzheimer’s Association can help families develop a plan as their loved ones face the various stages of the disease.

The symposium is free. To register or get more information, go to aarp.cvent.com/caregivingsymposium or call 877-926-8300 toll-free.

Danica Lucker is a writer living in Highlands Ranch, Colo.