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Willmar to host national speaker on aging, dementia

WILLMAR — A packed house is expected this coming week when a nationally recognized speaker visits Willmar to talk about a serious and urgent topic: caring for the rising number of older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia.

Speaker Teepa Snow will give a community presentation at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Willmar Evangelical Free Church. She also will lead a day-long workshop Monday at the Evangelical Free Church, starting at 8:30 a.m.

Bringing Snow to a local audience has been a longstanding goal of the West Central Dementia Awareness Network, which organized the event and is the main sponsor.

“We tried for two years to get Willmar on her schedule,” Lori Petersen said. “It’s a big deal that she’s coming. She’s got a lot of expertise in the field. We think people will not be disappointed, even if they just come for an hour.”

Snow has decades of experience in geriatrics, particularly in dementia care, and is considered a leading educator on dementia. She has taught in settings ranging from medical schools and universities to community centers and also has developed and conducted clinical research in geriatrics and dementia.

She pioneered a philosophy, known as Positive Approach to Care, that emphasizes partnerships and support to meet the needs of individuals with dementia and their caregivers through all the phases of dementia.

As the population ages, there’s an increasingly critical need for communities to prepare and educate themselves about dementia, Petersen said.

“Even if you don’t think you’re affected by it right now, chances are you will be,” she said.

Attendance is expected to be high at both of Snow’s talks. About 350 people have already registered for the session on Monday and many will come from across the state, Petersen said. “We have people coming from the Twin Cities. We have people coming from North Dakota. We have people coming from northern Minnesota. … The response has been huge.”

Snow’s presentations will be geared to the public as well as to health care professionals. The all-day workshop Monday on best practices in dementia care is structured as a series of four mini-sessions allowing people to attend one, two or all four.

There’s no registration required for the Sunday evening event but Petersen thinks attendance could be similarly high.

“We have room for up to a thousand people,” she said. “We would love to see 400 people or more for Sunday night. We’re ready.”

Organizers know there is both a need and a demand to learn more about dementia. The West Central Dementia Awareness Network holds two public education events each year that usually pack the house, Petersen said.

When the Benson Area Memory Loss Network hosted a recent event of its own, the room was filled, she said. “We know that there’s people who want information.”

If you go:

Dementia expert Teepa Snow will give two presentations at the Willmar Evangelical Free Church, 1305 19th Ave. S.W. in Willmar.

A community session is from 6:30 to 8:45 p.m. Sunday. The doors open at 6 p.m. Freewill donations will be accepted to help defray costs.

A day-long workshop on “Best Care Practices in Dementia Care: Providing Care Without the Fight” will be held Monday. Registration begins at 7:45 a.m. Sessions run from 8:30 to

10 a.m., 10:15 to 11:45 a.m., 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and 1:45 to 2:45 p.m. Continuing education credits are available for health care professionals who attend.

The cost of the workshop is $15 ($50 if continuing education credits are requested). Checks payable to the West Central Dementia Awareness Network should be sent to Lori Petersen, 10017 Highway 7 S.E., Clara City, MN 56222.

Snow’s appearance is sponsored by the West Central Dementia Awareness Network, with support from the Benson Area Memory Loss Network, the Renville County Dementia Awareness Network and sponsoring local businesses and individuals.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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