OXFORD – “Everybody’s in one of three groups,” Kathy Van Cleave of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health told students, caregivers and health professionals Wednesday at the University of Mississippi. “You have dealt with someone with Alzheimer’s, you’re dealing with someone with it now, or you’re going to be dealing with someone with it in the future.”
Ole Miss’ Department of Social Work hosted its eighth annual CARE (Caring for Aging Relatives Effectively) Fair Wednesday to address dementia and other issues of aging.
“This is one of those special offerings that this university feels is so important to our community,” said Dr. Gloria Kellum, recently retired vice chancellor at Ole Miss.
The idea for CARE Fair began when Dr. Jo Ann O’Quin, a professor of social work who specializes in gerontology, found herself constantly being asked about services for the elderly and their caregivers.
“I realized we needed … a conference that would outline some of the available resources,” said O’Quin, who knows caregiving from both professional education and firsthand experience.
Laura Feldman, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, was one of several presenters. Also, Edna Clark of the Mississippi Department of Human Services outlined signs of elder abuse and how her agency gets involved.
One conference exercise was the “virtual dementia” tour. Participants were told a list of simple household tasks to perform while wearing impediments that mimicked disabilities such as cataracts, macular degeneration, neuropathy, arthritis, hearing impairment and aural hallucinations.
The exercise is designed to make caregivers more sympathetic to the daily frustrations of the elderly – especially those with dementia. Participants added to the reality by wandering, forgetting assignments, making busywork and physically and verbally indicating anger about their disabilities.
“We made one change to the initial study,” Van Cleave said, noting Wednesday’s routine was shorter than the original. “We found you can get just as frustrated in six minutes as in 10.”
Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal