Heather McKay, MS, Dementia Care Provider of Year, is Featured Speaker at Caregiver Conference March 16


The Outer Banks Dementia Task Force, together with Healthy Carolinians of the Outer Banks, Albemarle’s Area Agency on Aging, and Partnerships for Health are leading a mission—better dementia care for all including support for professional and family caregivers alike.

On March 16, the Task Force is pleased to welcome Heather McKay, winner of 2015 Caregiver Friendly Award, 2016 Dementia Care Provider of the Year, and creator of the DVD series Dementia Care for America’s Heroes. Ms. McKay will lead a caregivers’ conference titled From Science to Solutions: Creating Positive Outcomes in Dementia Care at the Ramada Plaza in Kill Devil Hills on March 16 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Participants will learn more about dementia, a devastating progressive group of disorders currently affecting approximately 5 million adults in the United States and their caregivers. In population studies presented by the Alzheimer’s Association, 13.9% of persons 71 years and older in the US have some types of dementia, and that percentage is expected to increase as the baby boomer generation ages.


Communications Key

McKay said, “Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are challenging conditions for both the person with the disease and their caregivers. Supporting individuals with dementia and their families is a complex, multidisciplinary process requiring constant adaptation and change along the progression of the disease. For instance, the loss of communication skills that happens early and continues throughout the disease makes providing dementia care particularly challenging for everyone because we rely so heavily on spoken language to provide care. Even at the beginning of the disease, communication is difficult as the person’s brain changes in areas of memory, language comprehension, language production, judgment, and impulse control. Broken communication affects all aspects of life, and in the case of dementia, it’s always changing.”


McKay cites research to explain the need for adaptive communication strategies with persons living with dementia is three-fold.  First, a growing body of evidence indicates that improved communication with an individual who has dementia has a positive effect on the person’s quality of life.  Second, improved communication with the person who has dementia can lessen the caregiver burden, resulting in a higher quality of life for family caregivers. Third, international policy initiatives highlight the need for improved communication practices in health care environments given the increasing number of persons with dementia and the societal and financial costs of providing care services to them.


Specific Techniques

During the caregiver conference, McKay will examine particular areas of the brain that affect communication. Participants will learn specific communication techniques to make social visits more positive, doing things easier and dealing with distress safer and more effective.  Addi-

tionally, participants will recognize changes that mark five stages in the progression of dementia.

In her fun signature style of training, McKay shares stories and words of wisdom from family caregivers and professional teams nationwide which are at once informative and inspiring.


McKay said, “Many families and organizations are supporting people with dementia for a decade or longer. Recognizing changes along the journey can feel like detective work. While no stage of this disease is easy, when caregivers understand the progression and redesign plans as the person’s needs change, they can continue to provide the right care at the right time. Our day of learning is designed to help families and professionals better understand why challenges happen with dementia and use new strategies to improve our interactions with those we’re supporting throughout the progression of the disease. The Outer Banks Dementia Task Forces is a vital partner in enhancing life for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia as well as the community of family, friends, neighbors, and professionals supporting them.”


A link to the full article, Dementia Care Communication: A Toolbox for Professionals and Families