NEW RICHMOND - The role of a caregiver can be a lonely, isolating experience, but the packed crowd Friday, Sept. 29, at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Conference Center was proof positive that help is out there.

The campus hosted the 11th annual Caregiver Conference, a daylong workshop featuring presentations and resources for family caregivers and professionals.

Keynote speaker Teepa Snow, a specialist in dementia care education, opened the day's events by likening caregiving to a sports team, which needs a coach who can call a timeout when necessary.

"When you're not working in an organized fashion with a coach, you're a player who's working really hard to learn a whole new game plan all on your own," Snow said. "And nobody gave you the information to do this well."

Snow stressed the importance of learning about dementia and being a caregiver early, though she said the unfortunate reality is the vast majority of Americans choose to ignore the prospect of dementia until it affects them personally.

"When it's not in your own brain, when it's not in the brain of someone you care a whole lot about, it's a lot easier to think about this thing called dementia and to start to understand what it means," she said.

The sold-out conference broke an attendance record this year with 300 attendees, said Bradley Beckman, administrator of the Aging & Disability Resource Center of St. Croix County.

Beckman said there are numerous resources available in the five-county area to assist people as they navigate the caregiver journey.

ADRC, a department of St. Croix County Health & Human Services, provides information and assistance regarding aging and disability services in the area. For more information, call 731-381-4360 or visit www.co.saint-croix.wi.us/ADRC.

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