Inaugural Caregiver College

The Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity and Wake Forest University School of Medicine conducted a weeklong Caregiver College from October 10th through 14th at Senior Services, located at 2895 Shorefair Drive in Winston Salem North Carolina. The week focused on culturally sensitive health education and awareness, Alzheimer’s disease, brain health, and dementia caregiving skills for African Americans. 

The Caregiver College is designed for informal caregivers who are actively involved in caring for someone. Through a series of interactive hands-on activities and evidence-based training, critical information about Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving coping strategies were highlighted. 

During the weeklong in person sessions experts in the fields of Alzheimer’s Disease, social work, nursing, aging, art, exercise, and health education interacted with participants. Topics covered over the course of the week included an Alzheimer’s overview, risk factors and related disorders, home safety and life planning. The caregiver burden for African Americans is multi-faceted. The Caregiver College seeks to enhance the quality of life for patients and their caregivers by providing support, strategies, and community-based resources.

Caregiver College is funded by a grant to Senior Services, Inc. by the Federal Administration for Community Living.

Associate Director Allison Caban-Holt shares her reflections about the Caregiver College
As I was planning our first Caregiver College, I never imagined that the participants, staff, presenters, and interns would embark on such an extraordinary journey together! Our minds were expanded, and our hearts were opened to the issues of Dementia Caregivers and their families. 
A Transformational Experience – Thank you Caregiver College Community Health Ambassadors

As we made our journey through the week, we engaged in many activities that increased our knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and we had fun along the way.  

  • We learned about AD risk factors, effective approaches to managing difficult behaviors in AD, and end of life planning issues.  
  • We engaged with a clinician to learn about harmful medications and ask health questions of concern.  
  • We had the chance to view the future of Alzheimer’s and aging research through our students who so professionally presented information to us about self-care and caregiver health.  
  • We enjoyed enhancing our presentation skills. 
  • We created art with the Opening Minds through Art program that demonstrated a failure-free activity to share with a dementia patient.  
  • We cooked up a healthy meal in the kitchen. 
  • We reviewed real research data - the pedigree of a family with Alzheimer’s disease - to view patterns of disease revealed through an AD genetics study.  
  • We engaged in physical activity during our sessions on African dance and drumming as well as Tai Chi.  

Above and beyond all these wonderful sessions and expert presenters, the most important part of this experience was getting to share it with everyone as we held each other up and supported one another. There were many times when we could see each other’s stories and lived experiences and could understand one another’s challenges at a deep and personal level. The expressions of empathy let us all know that we are not alone in these difficult moments. Now that you have completed the Caregiver College and in your role as an Alzheimer’s Caregiving Community Health Ambassador we know that you will help many people with the knowledge you have gained.