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 ...Goin' To Disney World

The Fearless Caregiver Conferences began in 1998 in Fort Lauderdale, when we at Today’s Caregiver magazine and wanted to bring a group of family and professional caregivers, as well as local and national advocates together for the day. Two things were evident throughout that first event. The first thing was that caregivers loved to share with one another and the advice they had to share was as effective and appropriate as could ever have been found from any degreed professional. And many times, much more so. The reason for this is simple:  the family caregiver is the person caring for their loved one around the clock and intuitively creating solutions for the challenges that they face on a daily basis.  The second thing that was evident was that caregivers with loved ones with different diagnoses and caregiving situations could learn from one another’s experiences. One other important lesson we learned from the events was that family caregivers should never isolate or “silo” ourselves based upon our loved one’s main healthcare issues.

For the longest time, caregivers were segmented by the types of disease or illness with which their loved one was dealing. Conferences, publications and even support groups created to support caregivers were defined by the disease and not the individual.  This fact had come to life for me as I was asked to speak at a wide variety of healthcare conferences: spinal cord, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or even scleroderma.  Certainly, the medical issues are unique to the diagnoses, but early on it became clear to me that the concerns and the stories of the caregivers I had met at these various events could not have been more similar.  They were worried about the best care for their loved ones, had financial concerns, too much stress and too little actionable and appropriate information. 

Soon, I became somewhat of a healthcare “Johnny Appleseed,” spreading the ideas and advice I received from these different groups with the next groups I met as we travelled the country, and everyone benefited from the wisdom I was able to share. One of the most important things I learned along the way is how much family caregivers have to learn from one another. In fact, one element of all our Fearless Caregiver events is the open question and answer session in the morning segment.  The stated purpose is to have any questions posed by a caregiver in attendance answered by our panel of local and national experts. The real secret to the success for the morning session (just between us) is that once it begins, the caregivers start answering each other’s questions, with the experts sometimes taking notes themselves. The true experts are actually the caregivers sitting in the audience and I believe that every single professional at each event would share in this belief.  

Over the next few weeks, I look forward to spending time once again with family and professional caregivers (CEU’s available!) in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton, as well as at our first ever Orlando Fearless Caregiver event.

M-I-C…see you real soon. K-E-Y…why? because…  Oh heck, you know.



Gary Barg

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