They are among 29 million Americans who are family caregivers - most often adult children caring for aging parents, driving them to doctor appointments, fixing their meals, helping them dress, even changing their diapers.
It's work that often leads to burnout and depression, according to the National Family Caregivers Association and the Family Caregiver Alliance, which reported the most recent numbers on caregivers last year.
But the Mayor's Caregiver Education Conference, to be held Wednesday at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, intends to give family caregivers information to make their lives easier.
The conference, now in its 13th year, is sponsored by Mayor Bob Walkup and the local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.
"When you're a caregiver, you're so focused on helping the person that you care for, your loved one, that you let your own health go," said Felipe Jacome, regional director of the Alzheimer's Association's Desert Southwest chapter.
"You're running from one thing to another, you're not eating right, you're not getting to your medical appointments - although you're doing a great job making sure your loved one gets all those things," Jacome said.
Mary Ellen Beaurain, elder-care specialist with the Pima Council on Aging, agreed that caregivers tend to continually put their own needs last.
"This conference could really benefit those family members and professionals who attend," Beaurain said.
Scheduled speakers and their topics include:
- Dr. Marwan Sabbagh of the SunHealth Research Institute in Phoenix: new developments in Alzheimer's research and treatment.
- Alfred Kaszniak, head of the University of Arizona psychology department: depression in people with dementia.
- Leigh H. Bernstein, elder-law attorney: advance directives and other legal issues.
- Wanda Howell, UA nutritionist: meal planning for you and your loved one.
- David W. Coon, Arizona State University psychologist: how to manage caregiver stress.