Caregiver Conference

Caregivers and elders gather for the ninth Milestones Area Agency Caregiver Conference at Bridge View Center, listening to Desi Payne talk about the importance of using humor to alleviate stress.

OTTUMWA — Amidst the blessings of caregiving, it is a full-time position that can be stressful and challenging. Saturday’s Milestones Caregiver Conference at Bridge View Center was about helping caregivers alleviate the stress that comes with their responsibilities.

Elders and caregivers were able to go to different booths at a one-stop shop and get information on services available to them and hear from elder law attorney Chad Eichorn about the importance of estate planning, wills and trusts and the importance of Medicaid and VA Pension Planning.

Attendees also got to hear motivational speaker Desi Payne talk about the benefit of using laughter to lower stress.

Family Caregiver Specialist Joan Nydle was blown away by the number of attendees as most lined up outside starting at 7:30 a.m., eager to hear about the different resources available.

“I was really shocked,” she said. “It’s been great. They have liked where we are at. They liked the speakers, they do like that.”

Like Nydle, Melissa Humble, activities director and marketing coordinator at Good Samaritan Society, was shocked by the amount of people who came up wanting to know more about the organization. Humble’s purpose in coming was to target the right age group to retirement and clarify the difference between a nursing home and senior living.

But Humble said her purpose in coming didn’t stop there. She wanted to listen to their stories and be as empathetic as possible.

“We had a family come in that have just recently had to take care of their father and their little loss,” she said. “It’s rough waters to navigate, especially when he’s coming from out of state. So you have to go through the challenges of finding medical providers here.”

Humble was once a registered nurse and knew the struggles of caregiving. She never attended a caregiver conference and thought it was beneficial.

“I think this is good information for both our senior population and the people taking care of them,” she said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty when you come into something like this. Have you ever looked at a Medicare packet? It is a huge packet; it’s hard to fill out. It’s a lot of language for someone if you’re not in that [field]. It’s hard to navigate.”

Humble hoped caregivers and their family members learned something from this caregiver conference.

“There are massive outlets out there to help,” she said. “It’s OK to ask for help. I think a lot of people when they’re taking care [of someone], especially if it’s their parent, they can get caught up in, ‘It’s my parent, they’re my responsibility.’ It’s OK to ask for help and look for ways to take some responsibility.”

Attendee Deborah McLaughlin took Humble’s input seriously. She said she came for the insight, something she hoped to pass along to people she cares for.

“There was so much to learn about trusts and wills and power of attorneys and what you can avoid the high lawyer fees,” McLaughlin said. “It was real stuff. Stuff you don’t think about.”

“None of us like to think about dying,” she said. “We just think we’re gonna keep going and this brings to the forefront all the things you need to think about, your finances, where your health is gonna go, having that power of attorney. It’s hard to think ahead of time before you get Alzheimer’s, which renders you unable to make your own decisions. It’s wonderful information.”

Monroe County Public Health nurse Dana Cockrell said caring for someone can cause stress so it is important for them to get their blood checked frequently. Cockrell said something that’s overlooked is self-care, which is something she said that needs to be emphasized more.

“I hope they feel able to provide themselves self-care and know there are resources available so they can get that care themselves if they are in a crisis,” Cockrell said.

Prairie Hills Marketing Director Brenda Miller agreed with Cockrell.

“They need to take care of themselves,” she said. “Because they get so wrapped up in taking care of their loved one that they forget all about them. Sometimes people need a little joy and excitement in their life, too. They need to get away.”

Chiara Romero can be reached at


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