Being a caregiver for a loved one with dementia is difficult during the best of times, but two years of a pandemic have made it all the more challenging.
Brianne Fitzgerald, a senior director with the Alzheimer’s Association Iowa Chapter, says that’s why the focus of today’s free, annual BrainWorks Conference is centered on caregivers.
“What we love to do is bring an opportunity forward for caregivers, persons living with the disease, professional caregivers, doctors, to come together and really feel like we’re wrapping our arms around each other and supporting each other,” Fitzgerald says, “so that we can continue to learn more about the disease and know how best to help each other.”
Around 66,000 Iowans are living with Alzheimer’s and perhaps as many as 73,000 Iowans are caregivers. Fitzgerald says times are “dire” and this virtual conference is a chance to learn and find allies.
“Because of this pandemic, people have been socially isolated, which is a huge concern, because social isolation is bad in general for brain health,” Fitzgerald says. “We want to make sure that we’re bringing people together and they know that they have this kind of support, they know that they have the information, and we can continue to encourage them.”
During the online gathering, Fitzgerald says attendees will be able to get advice directly from local caregivers during a question and answer panel. “It’s really important to know how best to continue to work with their loved ones,” she says, “so as the disease progresses, what to expect, what caregivers can do to continue to provide the best environment for them, and then also what’s going on with our latest research.”
The list of speakers includes Dr. Claire Sexton, the national office’s director of scientific programs, who will discuss the latest advancements in Alzheimer’s and dementia research. The virtual conference runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
It’s free to attend. Register at: alz.org/iowa/helping_you/conferences