ICYMI: Recap of Symposium

SoFIA hosted its second annual Caregiver Symposium presented by Sunshine Health and NSU on Friday, June 22nd, 2018 at Nova Southeastern University. The day consisted of a variety of panels, discussions and presentations focusing on areas from well-being, to caregiver policy, to healthcare. A host of panelists and speakers participated coming from the government, advocacy organizations, and health fields. Below are some of the highlights and videos of the event for those who were not able to attend.

Caregiver Advocacy
The Caregiver Advocacy panel focused on the stories of the Moderator, Chris Farrell, and panelists, Chris MacLellan, Alina Perez, and Victoria Ruiz. Chris Farrell opened the conversation focusing on the challenges that he faced as a caregiver of his mother and the strategies he used to care for her. Alina shared similar struggles and strategies of caregiving with her 92 year old mother who has language and understanding issues. Alina brought up that it’s not only difficult to care for one’s loved one but also make decisions for them given legal and familial barriers. Next, Chris MacLellan focused on the importance of support and the power that sharing stories can have for not only other caregivers, but also the population in general. Finally, there was Victoria Ruiz who focused on the importance of self-care and enjoying every moment, even when caregiving can be difficult. The panel wrapped up with a discussion of the importance of caregiving, advocacy through storytelling, and self-care.

End of Life Planning
This panel focused on the importance of creating a plan for elderly family members to be prepared for any complications that might arise at the end of life. Moderator Rick Folbaum emphasized how underprepared people in the US are in general, even though 90% of people believe that end of life planning is important. The three panelists each brought their own expertise to the conversation. Melanie McMillion talked about her role as a psychotherapist and how people usually use “avoidance” tactics to prevent them from having to deal with the thought of their loved one’s death. Professor Alina Perez focused on the cultural element of end of life planning and how culture affects the way death is viewed across cultures and its effect on willingness to plan. She emphasized the importance of professionals being sensitive to cultural differences and also the duty of family members to make any documented requests clear. Finally, lawyer Arlene Lakin talked about the importance of having the necessary paperwork in preparation for the end of life including wishes about healthcare decisions to be taken in the instance that a person becomes incapacitated (she also emphasized the need to keep these documents updated after major life events).

Public Policy Panel
The panel set out with the goal of discussing the policies that are already in place to assist caregivers, and the issues that future policies need to address. The panel started with Jean Accius, VP, AARP and a description of the recently passed RAISE act which had the goal of requiring a private, public and consumer council to provide recommendations on caregiver policy to be implemented through government agencies. Senator Nan Rich focused on the ability of the policy building process at a local level and emphasized the dearth of resources available to provide services like housing and transportation to the huge influx of seniors coming to Broward County. She described how one of the issues is the lack of support in the state legislator for seniors. The panel continued to discuss multiple other issues such as seniors taking care of older seniors, seniors not having anyone to take care of them, and the lack of a link between seniors and the services they need. As the panel wrapped up it seemed as if there were two major takeaways. First, voters need to advocate for political officials who share their values and will emphasize senior issues. Next, there need to be more resources allocated to programs that support seniors and caregivers.

Keeping Caregivers Healthy
The panel focused on different prevention methods caregivers can use to make sure that they stay in good health and are able to continue providing care for their loved one. There were two different categories of prevention--primary (immunizations, public health measures, behavior modification) and secondary (treatment for medical issues such as HBP, diabetes, high cholesterol, and annual checkups). The three panelists, Dr. Naushira Mandya, Dr. Marilyn Gordon, and Dr. Kenya Rivas talked about the importance of a mixture of physical activity, social resources, material security and meaningful life activities in ensuring successful aging. There are a few healthy habits that can complement this lifestyle including choosing the right food, staying hydrated, and finding a stress relieving activity.

LGBT Caregiving Panel
This panel was opened by Chris MacLellan who focused on the special needs of the LGBT community, especially when it comes to caregiving. SAGE's Sterling Herr explained that there are a lot of issues that baby boomers and older gen-Xers are facing in the LGBT community. They grew up in a time when people were often discriminated against due to their sexual and gender identities. The discrimination that used to be more prevalent has a lasting effect not only on the resources available to caregivers, but also on the caregiver’s willingness to reach out and find the resources that are available. This means that elder members of the LGBT community usually rely on others in their communities as opposed to family members (like children) or professional resources. Additionally, there are discrepancies in support across different areas of the LGBT community--for example, Anne Atwell described how the lesbian community is relatively closed off and self-supporting compared to the gay community. After discussion of the various caregiving issues that are especially prevalent in the LGBT community, the panel, which included the Pride Center's Bruce Williams, started to discuss areas that could be improved. For example, a lot of professional caregiving organizations need LGBT competency training to ensure an open and supportive environment for LGBT seniors. Another area that needs more attention is the collection of data on LGBT seniors to prevent from issues of discrimination.

In addition to the panels, the keynote presentation highlighted the results of The Silver Tsunami: Is Broward Ready? A Comprehensive Study of Broward’s Older Population, which was commissioned by the Community Foundation of Broward, the Jewish Federation of Broward County, and the United Way of Broward County. You can find a video of the highlights on our Facebook page here.

Thank you to everyone who participated in and supported the Caregiver Symposium. Take a look at our Program below and see you next year!

Peter Kaldes