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Some tender, loving care for caregivers
Annual symposium on Nov. 6 helps relieve stress for caregivers

Date published: 10/28/2010


Fern Peterson moved to Spotsylvania County 11 years ago, expecting a relaxing retirement.

Instead, she became the caregiver for four loved ones: her parents and her in-laws.

She now spends at least 20 hours each week taking care of three elderly relatives; her father died last November.

Peterson has learned about Medicare, Medicaid, Alzheimer's, prescriptions, nursing homes, strokes and macular degeneration.

So each year, she attends the Fredericksburg area Partners in Aging Caregivers' Symposium. There, she has met with social workers who walked her through Medicaid procedures, doctors who have offered advice and others who have talked about relieving stress.

"The information and the help they gave me was just phenomenal," Peterson said.

And that's what many attendees report, said Teresa Bowers, director of the Senior Visitors program.

For 10 years, the area event has offered advice, education and support for people who take care of the elderly.

"The stress level is very high when you're trying to manage the care," Bowers said. "It takes a toll not just emotionally or mentally but often physically."

Recent studies have shown that caregivers are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer's, autoimmune disorders and other ailments. Doctors theorize that the constant stress makes caregivers more susceptible.

"Sometimes, we get so engrossed in taking care of others, you know, the parents, and then we have to take care of our family and we forget to take care of ourselves," Peterson said.

But the symposium showed Peterson the importance of carving out time for herself. Now, she swims at the Y about three times a week, attends a regular Bible study and crochets blankets.

"Going to these symposiums teaches you: You have to take care of yourself," Peterson said. "If you don't, you just fall apart. It gets so overwhelming."

At the upcoming symposium on Nov. 6, Peterson hopes to learn more about the Lifeline buttons, which would let her mother call for help if she falls and hurts herself.

When it comes to old age, there's always something new to learn, Peterson said.

"I don't think I could do this if I didn't have this outside support," she said. "I can't emphasize enough that the more information you get helps you cope with the disease and helps you take care of them. You can never get enough; there's always something to learn."

Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973
Email: aumble@freelancestar.com

WHAT: Caregivers' Symposium

WHEN: Nov. 6, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. WHERE: Fairview at River Club in Spotsylvania County DETAILS: For more information, call Pat Holland at 540/371-3375.