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NEW FAIRFIELD – With an active senior population, New Fairfield is fortunate to have an engaged and progressive Commission on Aging.

The Commission works to determine important issues for Seniors and uses community forums to provide topical information throughout the year. On April 8, a forum on “The Emotional Cost of Caregiving” will take place. Dr. Jorge Aguilar-Zanatta of Yale and Danbury Hospital, will discuss the responsibilities, feelings, and stresses of both caregivers and their loved ones. He expects an engaged audience to help determine the course of the conversation. Other agencies participating include The Alzheimer’s Association, Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association, and Connecticut Community Care. Maplewood Senior Living will also be on hand.

Dr. Aguilar-Zanatta, the keynote speaker, is a New Fairfield resident. While discussing the role of caregivers in society, he shared that when a person becomes ill or infirm, it affects all supporting groups. Caregiving can cause anxiety and complicate the emotions in a relationship. The economic impact may manifest itself in resentment and guilt. Dr. Aguilar-Zanatta has seen the need for support, “be an opportunity to bring a family together and overcome past tensions” but also “create fear and change dynamics based upon the unknown outcome of illness.” It is imperative for all parties that stressors are identified to minimize impact. Understanding the resources available and open communications between professional caregivers and familial caregivers can help alleviate many of the burdens of caregiving. Generationally, the advent of technology has impacted how different age groups respond to information from the medical profession and must also be taken into account as decisions are made.

Other participants at the forum will share information specific to their focus. Connecticut Community Cares is an agency whose mission is to identify choices and provide services to help people of all ages, abilities, and incomes live at home. The Ridgefield VNA will speak to the issues of safety when keeping a loved one home and the Alzheimer’s Foundation will detail aspects of dementia that create specific challenges for caregivers. Knowing that not all can stay in their homes, Maplewood Senior Living will present information on their programs for both the physically compromised and those suffering from dementia.

People are living longer, aged people prefer to be independent longer, and families are scattered across the country. All factors that contribute to the stress and uncertainty of caregiving. Maureen Salerno, chair of the Commission on Aging, states the goal of this event is to, “talk about caregiving publicly so people know that they are not alone and can share this burden with others. This type of caregiving can last for years and wear down even the most good-intentioned family.” The Commission works faithfully to inform and educate the community on the needs of the local senior population. Please join them on Saturday April 8th from 10-12am at the Senior Center to be a part of this thought-provoking and important conversation.

By Jennifer Brakenwagen