Free Alzheimer's conference coming to Minnesota


WHAT: Alzheimer’s educational conference

WHEN: Tuesday, March 16, 10 am – 12:30 pm


There are more than 5 million people in America living with Alzheimer’s disease. However, at current projections, by 2050 that will more than double to 13.8 million people with Alzheimer’s dementia. The research around Alzheimer’s is full of numbers – scary numbers. It’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It kills more people than breast and prostate cancer combined. Since 2000, deaths from alzheimer’s have increased 146 percent while during that same period deaths from heart disease have declined 7.8 percent. Sixteen million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, and the 18.6 billion hours of care they provide is valued at $244 billion. “Knowledge is a useful and powerful tool that can help make any situation easier to navigate, especially something as challenging as caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., President & CEO of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA). The AFA is in the midst of a neverending education campaign that brings a free virtual Alzheimer’s education conference to Minnesota on Tuesday, March 16. Fuschillo notes that there are nearly 100,000 people in Minnesota living with Alzheimer’s, but when you add on the three to four caregivers for each person with the disease, the number of people affected grows to 300,000 to 40,000. “We started this initiative four years ago,” Fuschillo said of the statewide conferences. “We have toured 12 to 15 states a year. The goal is to get to all 50 states, which we do this year. Then we start all over again. Since the pandemic started we went remote and virtual, on March 17th, almost a year. It’s amazing.” The day before he spoke with The Reader about the Minnesota conference, Fuschillo said the AFA had held a joint conference for the people of Alaska and Hawaii. “It was terrific,” he said. “Hundreds of people participated. My intent for this was to provide education and knowledge about Alzeheimer’s disease, and let people know that they don’t need to go on this journey alone.” The conference, he said, is free and open to caregivers, both professional and nonprofessional, individuals who are concerned about their memories, as well as the interested public. “Connecting families with useful, practical information and support that can help them now and be better prepared for the future is what this conference is all about,”Fuschillo said. “Whether Alzheimer’s is affecting your family, you’re a caregiver or just want to learn more, you can participate in this free virtual conference from the comfort of your home or office.” Sessions during the AFA virtual conference will include: • How Mindfulness Can Help Family Caregivers – Angela Lunde, M.A., Co-director for the Outreach, Recruitment, and Engagement Core with the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Mayo Clinic Education, in Rochester, MN, will discuss what mindfulness is and the role it can play in the well-being and quality of life for both the caregiver and the person in their care. She will help participants identify shifts in thinking that can lead to less stress and greater well-being. She will also help them experience a self-compassion mindfulness practice and provide information on local resources. • Planning in Crisis – Having the necessary legal documents in place is extremely vital when a family is confronted with a dementia diagnosis. Hannon T. Ford, Certified Elder Law Attorney and Founding Attorney of The Ford Law Office, L.L.C., in Windom, MN, will talk about estate planning and medical assistance plans. He will discuss wills, trusts and powers of attorney, which are all vital in helping families to plan their long-term care. He will advise attendees on how to provide for their loved ones in the best way possible and protect their assets. • It’s Not That Simple – Helping Families Navigate the Alzheimer’s Journey – Pam Ostrowski, Certified Dementia Practitioner, President and CEO of Alzheimer’s Family Consulting, L.L.C., and Author, will provide quick tips on how to best cope with the legal, logistical, and medical decisions caregivers must make while also handling the emotional rollercoaster and communications challenges of being a caregiver. She will share her experiences as a caregiver for her mother who had Alzheimer’s and provide guidance for others who will benefit from her knowledge. At the conclusion of the conference, there will be a special performance by the Giving Voice Chorus. Giving Voice, based in Bloomington, Minn., helps bring together people with Alzheimer’s and their care partners to sing in choruses that foster joy, well-being, purpose and community understanding as they celebrate the potential of people living with dementia. Fuschillo also notes that the AFA is always available to caregivers. “Individuals can call our helpline, which is toll free, seven days a week,” he said. And what are they looking for when they call? “It varies,” Fuschillo said. “Sometimes it’s ‘I notice a change in my loved one. He or she is forgetting things.’ Or ‘I’m concerned about myself with my memory.’ “ The AFA then can provide memory screening, support group information, dementia training and therapeutic training. Fuschillo recommends people check out the AFA’s Teal Room, which features a variety of mindfulness, arts, crafts, music and dance, and exercise programming ( “We offer all of this,” Fuschillo said. “When a caregiver calls we always encourage them to keep the normal schedule they had before the pandemic. Participate in activities. Keep connected with friends and loved ones with phone calls and facetime. Encourage caregivers to avoid caregiver burnout by taking time out for themselves. The emotional stress of isolation and loneliness can be overwhelming. That’s why we do these conferences, to help people become empowered and that’s why we were founded about 20 years ago. You do not go on this journey alone.”