- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The tone at the Annual Southern Maryland Caregivers Conference is different from what Debbie Barker of Golden Beach says she often sees at her office.
Barker is a senior information and assistance division manager with the St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services. She helps people with their questions about issues like Medicare and Medicaid, transportation and housing options, property tax, energy assistance. Barker says families will sometimes come straight from the doctor’s office or the hospital where they’ve just heard their elderly mother or father can no longer live alone or needs some kind of special assistance.
“I see them stressed when they come in the office,” Barker said during a phone interview. “They’re in crisis mode.” Part of Barker’s job is to help them work through some of their options.
Once a year, however, Barker, along with an army of other professionals in related fields in the tri-county area participate in the Annual Southern Maryland Caregivers Conference. There, instead of making decisions in crisis mode, people have the chance to calmly consider options for caring for a family member, pick up helpful tips and ask questions.
“I think it’s definitely helpful,” Barker said. People who attend the conference “are going to come with something — tips on dealing with dementia or how to shift someone’s position on the bed.”
The conference is “for anybody who is concerned about those who cannot care for themselves,” said Jennifer Stone, community programs and outreach division manager with the aging and human services office. “It’s a great opportunity. It doesn’t matter if you need these resources right now. You will probably need them later ... Information is power.”
The 22nd annual Southern Maryland Caregivers’ Conference will take place Friday, May 2, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center in California.
Stone will participate in a presentation about services that the department of aging provides. Other breakout sessions will include topics like preparing for a medical emergency, managing stress and anxiety, understanding Medicare, palliative care, dealing with diabetes, programs for veterans, understanding hospice services, coping with challenging behaviors associated with dementia and medication management.
Amanda Hemming of Mechanicsville, a paramedic in St. Mary’s County, will be helping present one of those breakout sessions — “Preparing for a Medical Emergency.”
“I’m really big on public education,” Hemming said. “You need to know what you need to do with yourself in a medical emergency.”
Hemming said that it helps for people to understand and make decisions about things like termination of resuscitation efforts and information they should have available long before an emergency happens.
Being a caregiver is a “very taxing process,” she said. And she believes dealing with issues related to that job in a less-crisis-centered environment, like a conference. This will be her first year participating in the conference, and she said she looking forward not just to sharing what she knows with conference participants. “I’d like to know how I can make it easier for people,” Hemming said.
Stone said that participants at past conferences have gotten more than information and tips.
“I think that people come away with a camaraderie with other caregivers,” she said, “other people who understand how taxing and difficult it can be.”
The conference is sponsored by the St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services and the Geriatrics and Gerontology Education and Research Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore, in cooperation with the Charles County Department of Community Services Aging Division and Calvert County Office on Aging and the Southern Maryland office of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The location of the annual conference rotates each year. So it is held in St. Mary’s County only once every three years. Last year it was in Charles. Next year it will be held in Calvert.