From Thursday, October 15th through Friday, October 16th, The Family Resource Network, hosted the 2020 National Caregivers Conference. The Family Resource Network, a NJ based organization centered around providing community-based resources to families with disabilities, titled the virtual event The Spirit of Resilience. Rightfully named, this conference embodied the hard work and determination of the over 63 million caregivers nationwide. The National Caregivers Conference looked to create a space for meaningful support and collaboration amongst these caregivers – a group that often faces individual and national-level hardships, especially during the current pandemic. The valuable voices of these caregivers, providers, families and many more were elevated throughout the two-day virtual event.
The Spirit of Resilience sought to touch upon the hardship and daily struggles these caregivers face as they provide 24/7 care to their loved ones. Despite being such a vital part of our nation’s healthcare system, their own wellbeing often gets forgotten. This spirit was embodied by the Thursday night showing of The Weight of Honor by Stephanie Seldin Howard. This film demonstrated the harsh reality military families face as they become caregivers for their wounded veterans, and how it changes their life forever. This emotional viewing started the conversation of the conference, which was then furthered by the powerful words of the Friday’s morning keynote speakers Michellene Davis. American TV Host, Caregiver, and Founder/CEO of “Leeza’s Care Connection,” Leeza Gibbons officially welcomed everyone to the conference by sharing her own experience as an advocate, but more importantly, as a caregiver herself. Her background and knowledge sparked a conversation for the day surrounding the vulnerability and resiliency within all caregivers and advocates. This was echoed by Michellene Davis, Executive VP and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at RWJBarnabas Health, Past State Treasurer and NJ Lottery CEO. Davis’ leadership experience sparked inspiration, allowing us all to unlock and connect with ourselves.
The conference provided attendees a chance to not only listen to these amazing speakers, but to share and collaborate their own experiences with others during a variety of breakout sessions. The sessions, led by esteemed professionals from all over the field, touched upon valuable topics such as self-care, lobbying, cannabis, story-telling, caregivers’ portals, and much more. Each session was home to valuable conversation regarding not only the tough reality caregivers may face, but possible solutions and resources that exist to help them. The afternoon was highlighted by the words of the afternoon keynote speaker, Nadine Roberts Cornish. “There most important care in the caregiving space is self-care,” explains Cornish in her presentation. As the founder of The Caregivers’ Guardian and a caregiver herself, Cornish showed everyone not only her impressive background in caregiving and public health, but the vulnerability of a caregiver as she shared her own experiences with her family.
One of the top features of the conference was the Learning Space corner, which was compiled of virtual booths displaying books, research, and innovation in the Caregiving Space. Progressive thinkers such as Racheal Fosu, Caring Across Generations, and Stephanie Erickson were some of the contributors of the Learning Space.
Between the words of the speakers, the stories and collaboration of caregivers, and insight from professionals, the conference created a space for caregivers to care for the most important person – themselves. By embodying the “put your oxygen mask on first mentality,” attendees were able to walk away with a sigh of relief, especially with the added pressure from the current pandemic. The 2020 National Caregivers Conference was made possible by the generosity and support of the following sponsors: Eisai, Neurelis, SK Lifesciences, Greenwich Biosciences, Centene Corporation, and WellCare. The next conference will be hosted in 2022. For more information, please visit: http://www.nationalcaregiversconference.org