More than 400,000 New Yorker’s are living Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, and more than 1.2 million people provide some kind of care for them. In Western New York, the Alzheimer’s Association local chapter is a critical resource for all impacted by dementia, providing no-cost educational opportunities, monthly support groups, public outreach and social respite services. That last service is among the practices growing across the country as health practitioners, private sector professionals and nonprofit associations look to provide programs that enrich the lives of those living with dementia, and offer a vital break for those who provide care.
From April 30 through May 2, hundreds of professionals from across the United States who work in all three sectors will gather in Buffalo for the National Lifespan Respite Conference at the Buffalo Grand Hotel (120 Church St. in downtown Buffalo). Among presenters are two experts from the Alzheimer’s Association Western New York Chapter.
Wheatfield resident and Chapter Program Director Rachel Rotach is responsible for the evolution of programs and services offered by the chapter across the eight counties of Western New York. “Just because Alzheimer’s disease has no cure, does not mean interventions such as respite are ineffective. Caregiving is demanding and it’s normal to need a break. We want to empower communities to provide safe, affordable respite options that benefit the person with dementia as well as the caregiver,” says Rotach. “We are excited to share our experiences and our successes with other professionals who are working to ease the challenge of caregiving for families all across the country.”
Lauren Ashburn of Buffalo leads the chapter’s respite services and advocacy programs. “Our social engagement program provides an opportunity for those living with dementia to build connections and have fun with others in a similar situation.” Ashburn says participants frequently tell her that the programs have been a lifesaver. “Dementia can be stigmatizing and isolating not only for the person with the diagnosis, but their care partner as well. We offer a chance for them to have fun together and get out and live well with the diagnosis.”
Both women will present “Social Respite Programs for People Living with Dementia: Volunteer-Led, Community-Driven” on May 1.
In their registration materials, organizers from the New York State Caregiving and Respite Coalition in collaboration with the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center, say they chose their theme based on Buffalo’s 19th century nickname of The City of Light.
The theme for the conference, Illuminate Respite, is inspired by the rich history of Buffalo, located on the shores of Lake Erie near Niagara Falls. In the late 19th century, Buffalo was the first city to implement widespread streetlights, earning it the nickname The City of Light. During this time Buffalo was a hub of innovation, using the natural power of Niagara Falls to bring light and growth to the city. This conference will provide a space to harness the power of the respite network to explore and formulate strategies to meet the respite needs of the nation’s 43 million family caregivers.
For additional information about the Alzheimer’s Association WNY Chapter and all of the programs services offered in-person and online, call 1-800-272-3900 or visit alz.org/WNY.