Back to Basics: Presentation to show silver lining on aging
For many people, aging is a frightening concept. Health care providers are working to prove it doesn't have to be.
"I think people feel vulnerable," said Krisie Barron, licensed social worker and caregiver specialist. "As we face aging we have a lot of fear. There are normal parts of that fear, but it doesn't have to be fearful. We can take the fear out of it when we learn what's possible."
Back to Basics
What: 10th annual sustainable living event hosted by Happy Dancing Turtle of Pine River, featuring workshops and over 50 vendors
When: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23
Where: Pine River-Backus High School
More information: www.happydancingturtle.org
Barron is part of a two-person team presenting at the Saturday, Jan. 23, Back to Basics event at Pine River-Backus School. With Theresa Eclov, Faith in Action executive director, Barron hopes to help aging individuals, and those who care for them, prepare to age comfortably and face the pitfalls (such as by installing grab bars in a home) that many face. Their presentation is called Normal Aging vs. Not Normal Aging.
The main "not normal" aging topic they will discuss is dementia.
"We are seeing more concerns with taking care of family members, friends and neighbors in a community, people who are struggling with a lot of different issues around aging and medical issues as well," Eclov said. "As far as the aging issues as well, a lot of folks are dealing with dementia and forms of dementia. We are working with folks who need information and need understanding for what to expect and look for and where to go for help. It's kind of a gradual learning process over the years. It's an increased need every year."
"It used to be that cancer was a big concern and people were going to die of cancer," Barron said. "The reality is that it's really switching over to dementia. One in four people right now are affected by dementia. Further down the line we will be looking at one in two. To get ready for that is really fundamentally necessary. The caregivers who care for these folks need to know how to do that."
Their presentation is not only about helping people prepare for the possibility of dementia, but also helping them to recognize dementia when compared to something more manageable.
"Your working memory holds five to seven things at a time," Barron said. "That's a normal, healthy aging brain. As we get older, it's not that we are typically losing our memory as much as our connections and processing speed. It's not about what we don't know. It's about how fast we process it. I think sometimes people are disillusioned and think they are getting Alzheimer' because they can't remember where they parked their car at Target. Sometimes I can't remember where I parked my car at Target, but I don't have dementia. If I'm 80 and I lose my car at Target, I have a problem. It's about learning how normal aging people process and how not normal aging people process."
Furthermore, dementia symptoms can be caused by less serious illness.
"You don't just wake up one day and just have dementia, and if you think you woke up one day and have dementia you need to look at something different," Barron said. "A urinary tract infection in the elderly can bring on symptoms of dementia. I think recognizing that dementia can be acute as much as chronic."
Their goals are threefold. First, to help people to recognize parts of the aging process. Second, to prepare for difficulties they might face so they can stay independent longer. Third, to educate people about their options and local resources. Ultimately, this should all grant comfort, independence and confidence, and eliminate panic in the face of sudden crisis.
"I think we can help people just make those connections with services, resources and information to help them with whatever they are dealing with at the time," Eclov said.
"No good decision ever comes out of a crisis," Barron said. "We've been in control of our destiny our entire life and when you are aging it gets more important to have a plan."
Those who are unable to attend the presentation can also speak to Eclov and Barron at their booth in the vendor section. Eclov can also be reached at 218-675-5435. Barron can be reached at 320-360-4724.