Library hosts Caregiver Symposium

Being a family caregiver is not an easy role, but it is one that many people assume at some point in their lives, said Sharon Bradley, president and CEO of Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County.

On Thursday, Nov. 19, the nursing agency and Wilton Library will host a Caregiver Symposium in the library’s Brubeck Room at 7 p.m., where a panel of experts, including Bradley, will have an open and frank discussion about the challenging and costly journey of caring for loved ones who are ill.

Other members of the panel will include Dr. Craig Olin, of Stamford Hospital; Betsy Ritter, Connecticut’s commissioner on aging; and Ann Fowler Cruz, an eldercare attorney with Cohen and Wolf PC.

During the discussion, which will be moderated by Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist and best-selling author Diane Smith, the panel will address the concerns of caregivers and the toll it takes on them physically, emotionally and financially.

“We are hoping to be able to provide family caregivers with information on resources in the community and supportive opportunities for the wonderful but sometimes stressful work that they do with their family members,” said Bradley.

“Oftentimes, family caregivers don’t identify themselves and we are hoping that through this forum, folks will be able to learn about community resources and hopefully take advantage of them to help them in their caregiving roles.”

During the symposium, the panel will not only give advice on how to manage the daily difficulties of one’s caregiving responsibilities, but also provide information on the resources available to caregivers that can help them plan for and navigate the varied challenges they may face.

“Many caregivers are in multiple roles themselves,” said Bradley. “For example, an adult family caregiver may be raising their own children while taking care of a parent, and that same adult caregiver is trying to maintain some employment outside of the home.”

In that case, the individual is not only an employee, but also a parent and caregiver — "just to name a few of the roles that they may have,” she said.

“Just that in and of itself can be stressful,” Bradley said, “and if the person they’re caring for is in great need, the stresses can really mount very quickly.

“The message I want family caregivers mostly to take away is knowing that they’re not alone in the work that they’re doing,” said Bradley.

“When you’re caring for, particularly, a very frail individual, sometimes you feel like you’re very much alone, and that’s not the case.”

Bradley said there are more than 700,000 family caregivers in Connecticut and there are support groups “with folks who are doing exactly the same sort of work.

“The second message we want to deliver is: Go easy on yourself as a caregiver,” said Bradley.

“Mistakes are going to be made as you’re enacting the caregiver role, and that’s OK. Again, there are resources in the community to help you in your work as caregivers.”

Bradley said she hopes the information provided during the symposium will help not only current caregivers but people who may assume the role in the future.

“Even if we may not be a caregiver for a loved one today, most likely we will be called upon to do that at some point in our lives,” said Bradley.

“We are hoping that the information people learn at the caregivers symposium will help them, or perhaps help someone they know, when they are called to be a caregiver.”

The Caregiver Symposium is open to the public and free of charge. However, space is limited, so registration is encouraged.

For more information or to register, call 203-762-3950, ext. 213, or visit