Dementia can be a long, tangled illness process.
"It can be a very long disease," according to Gerontologist Tam Cummings.
So the Untangling Dementia Caregiver Conference at Blountville's Celebration Church is providing vital information. "When the caregivers leave here we want them to have an understanding of what dementia is," Cummings said. "That allows the family members to track the disease and have a better understanding of what's coming next and we want them to go home with information that they can actually put in use."
And that's key; Gerontologist Tam Cummings tells us caregiving is extremely difficult. "It's extremely stressful," Cummings said. "Caregivers of somebody with dementia have the highest rates of depression, anxiety and compassion fatigue of any group we know. It exhausts them physically and mentally. Their day doesn't really start and stop."
Conference vendors were also on hand to help, like the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department's Project Lifesaver, where a transmitter is put on the wrist of a dementia patient like a wristwatch. "If they do wander away from home their caregiver can call us," Major Keith Elton said. "We'll send someone out or send a team out and they will search for whoever wanders away."
Major Elton tells us there's a limited criteria to qualify for transmitters and it's a free service. Right now between 20 to 25 home care dementia patients are wearing the bracelets.
The technology is helping, but Cummings says there's not enough progress in the fight for a cure due to limited funding. So conferences like this one are important. "In terms of a national picture the number one thing we're pushing for is research and the number two thing would be caregiver education," Cummings said.