The annual Caring for People with Memory Loss Conference (CPWML), hosted by the School of Public Health (SPH) and sponsored by the Minnesota Northstar Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (MN GWEP), provides an opportunity to engage with experts in a lively, informative discussion related to memory loss, caregiving tips, and what you can do to help.
“What makes the CPWML conference popular, in my opinion, is its audience-driven nature; attendees dictate content and outline issues of the highest importance to them. Each conference includes not only presentations, where the topics are selected based on audience feedback from prior CPWML conferences, but also a free exchange of ideas involving key issues persons with memory loss, families, and care providers are grappling with on a day-to-day basis,” said Joe Gaugler, PhD, director for the SPH Center for Healthy Aging and Innovation and co-investigator for MN GWEP.
The conference is intended for adult children, spouses, parents, health and community care providers, and others concerned with caring for people with memory loss to gain valuable information, support, and education. The recent spring event included 291 attendees, with many family members, including the parent or spouse suffering from memory loss and health professionals coming together to discuss dementia.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest change to the conference this year was the move to offer the conference in hybrid format. Providing an online attendance option now allows individuals from anywhere to participate and ask questions. Moreover, the hybrid format also offers the opportunity to feature speakers from any location as well, broadening the pool of presenters to better address the needs of attendees.
The CPWML conference began in 2008. At the time, Gaugler had envisioned the conference as a community outreach strategy to identify adult child caregivers for a study he was conducting. Approximately 90 people attended the first conference, but the demand from families, professionals, and even people with memory loss themselves motivated the team to offer the conference on an annual basis ever since.
The goal of the CPWML conference is to provide tools, resources, and information to help those caring for individuals living with dementia. Attendance is free and open to all, with continuing education credits available to purchase for care professionals. A number of exhibitors are routinely featured so that attendees can obtain information and resources throughout the day. Attendees also have the opportunity to join the University of Minnesota Caregiver Registry, which provides research staff permission to contact registry members to invite them to participate in various research studies on dementia care. Past conference presentations and materials are available to view via a virtual conference library, organized by date and topic. Recordings are available on YouTube.
“What strikes me the most at each CPWML conference is how thankful and gracious family members and professionals are; attendees often come year after year, and a handful have attended every conference. Many families who are in the throes of caregiving are in a desperate search for answers, and any kind of information or resource is greatly sought after. The conference becomes a part of the caregiving experience for many families,” said Gaugler.