Former Family Caregiver Sessions


Former Family Caregiver Sessions


10 a.m. Life After Caregiving

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 44 million individuals care for a family member. What happens when caregiving ends? During this presentation, three current and former family caregivers share how relief, sadness, guilt, isolation and acceptance play a role in our lives when caregiving ends. This will be an upbeat conversation on a difficult topic.

Presenters: Chris MacLellan, Amy Goyer and Toula Wooten

  • Amy has been a family caregiver my entire adult life - first for her grandparents, then her parents and her sister. She has been working in the field of aging for 35 years. She has a degree in Music Therapy and worked at the local level in adult day care and nursing homes for many years, then for the Ohio Department of Aging and then for AARP in Washington, DC. She is now a consultant, author and speaker and serves as a caregiving expert for AARP and work with other clients on caregiving issues. Her book, "Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving" outlines practical tips for caregivers as well as anecdotes from her personal caregiving journey and from other family caregivers.

  • Chris is affectionately known as “The Bow Tie Guy” in many caregiving circles. Faced with his partner’s diagnosis of esophageal cancer in 2011, Chris started a caregiving blog entitled, “The Purple Jacket,” and is an ardent advocate for family caregivers and their carees through his blog and radio show, “Healing Ties™”. Chris’ Masters Degree thesis entitled, “Spiral of Silence: Caregiving, Stress and its Impact in the Workplace” was accepted by the faculty at Gonzaga University, where Chris earned a Masters degree in Leadership and Communication in 2016. Chris is the founder of the Whole Care Network and the South Florida Caregiving Coalition. The author of “What’s The Deal With Caregiving?,” Chris is a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), a Certified Caregiving Consultant (CCC) and a Certified Caregiving Educator. Chris presents regularly on topics that impact family caregivers and LGBT seniors.

  • Since 2000, Toula has worked for Community Hospice in Jacksonville, Fla., managing programs that emphasize supporting family caregivers, seniors and veterans. She created the Community Hospice Veteran’s Partnership, which reaches nearly 250,000 Veterans. Toula recently created the Caregiver Coalition of Northeast Florida to reach out and serve family caregivers. The coalition conducts and oversees around eight workshops each year as well as provides current family caregiver advice and support through its monthly e-newsletter. Toula hosts “Toula’S Tips for Caregivers,” which airs each Saturday at 11 a.m. ET on WBOB 600 AM.

11 a.m. The Dance of the Former Family Caregiver

Participants will be asked to experience, move, and challenge their own relationship with movement and how that aids or hinders their healing experience. Through a series of guided meditations, authentic movement, and hands-on exercises, participants will not only learn the importance of body language, but also how it might positively and negatively effect their grieving process. Participants will be led in a movement experiential that gets them in touch with their own bodies, how they express themselves and how they can use movement to enhance their therapeutic and professional skills.

Presenter: Erica Hornthal

  • Erica is CEO of Chicago Dance Therapy. A licensed clinical professional counselor and board certified dance/movement therapist, she specializes in working with individuals and families affected by movement and cognitive disorders. She has worked with over 350 individuals in the Chicagoland area since starting her company in 2011, and many more since starting her professional journey almost 10 years ago.

1 p.m. Grieving and the Holidays

Grieving can feel like waves that catch you off guard and even throw you off course. Learn to understand your grieving process and to find healthy ways to cope with your grief. Iris also will share strategies to help when grieving hits during the holiday season.

Presenter: Iris Waichler

  • Iris has 40 years of experience as a medical social worker and patient advocate, counseling people with catastrophic illnesses and their families. She has authored hundreds of articles on healthcare topics and is a contributing author at the website, In addition, she was caregiver for her father, which inspired her book, Role Reversal, How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents. Her website is

1:30 p.m. Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

So much changes after caregiving ends that you may be tempted to stay as close to your comfort zone as possible. The safety of your comfort zone, though, keeps you from reaching your full potential in this next phase of your life. Our panelists will talk about how they got comfortable stepping out of their comfort zone and how their risks paid off.

Moderator: MaryAnne Sterling

Panelists: Matt Gurwell, Deb Kelsey-Davis, Colleen Kavanaugh, Chris MacLellan, Heather Slutzky, Anne Tumlinson

Our Panel

  • Anne is the founder of Daughterhood, an organization dedicated to providing content and community for women navigating the health and elder care systems on behalf of their parents. She also works with provider organizations to encourage and support innovation in how we pay for and deliver care to frail older adults. Anne has testified before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Senate Aging Committee, the Congressional Long-Term Care Commission, and the Bipartisan Policy Center.

  • For a decade, Colleen cared for her parents while working full time and raising three children. Realizing how profound an experience it was, she is now a Certified Caregiving Consultant and cares for her clients. She realizes the need to establish a firm foundation in order to best stabilize family caregivers during the tumultuous years of providing care. Based in pragmatism with a sensitivity to the deeply emotional nature of caregiving, she offers a blend of realistic hope while supporting clients in the ways that best fit their circumstances. Colleen writes about caregiving on her website,

  • Matt is a retired Ohio State Trooper and national speaker on the topic of older drivers with age-related diminished driving skills. He is founder and CEO of Keeping Us Safe, a national organization that helps drivers with diminished skills retire from driving with minimal erosion to their personal pride, dignity or independence. He also is the author of "Beyond Driving with Dignity; The workbook for the families of older drivers".

  • After 35 years as a clinician and respected healthcare executive, Deb left corporate America to serve families caring for an aging parent. Deb cared for her my grandparents, then my mother-in-law, and now for her father, who's 90, and her mother who is 82. She holds a Masters degree in Health Services Administration from the University of St. Francis and a certificate from USC Davis School of Gerontology in the Fundamentals of Gerontology. Caring for her mother-in-law, Eva, who lost her battle with cancer, was the turning point for her. For so many years Deb focused on caring as a mechanical or clinical set of activities. In caring for Eva in her home, Deb learned first-hand that it was compassion, laughter and loving that made the real difference, and not the medical tasks of feeding, medicating and turning. So, today, through her company, Soul2Soul, Deb shares her learnings, experiences and work with family caregivers across the country to simply find a way to really make a difference.

  • Heather had the honor of walking next to her first husband, John, as Marfan Syndrome prompted heart surgeries, clinical trials of new fangled devices, organ transplant lists, and eventually his death in 2002. She most recently was a long-distance caregiver to her father. Her engagement with the healthcare system eventually became her career. She has worked in healthcare settings since 2003 and writes at, a website dedicated to talking about the U.S. health care system. Heather is a Certified Caregiving Consultant and Certified Caregiving Educator.

  • (See bio for Chris above.)

2:30 p.m. Figuring Out Next

The void left after caregiving ends can feel too big to cross and too enormous to bear. In this discussion, our panelists will share how they determined their next steps after their caregiving experiences ended and how they found the courage to take them.

Moderator: Heather Slutzky

Panelists: Colleen Kavanaugh, Debbie Howard, Claire Day, Adrienne Gruberg

Our Panel

  • Debbie cared for her mom, who died from lung cancer after a 18-month battle. She's currently finishing a book about her experiences, expanding on what she learned by using her professional experience as a market researcher to help all family caregivers manage their caregiving journeys with more grace. Her book will be available November 2016.

  • Adrienne is a former family caregiver and founder and president of The Caregiver Space, Inc. After six years of caring for her late husband—diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005, and mother-in-law—who came to live with them after being diagnosed with lymphoma at the age of 89—she conceived of an online support community available—at no cost—to all caregivers. After graduating from Boston University’s School of Fine Arts, she married and moved to Liberia, West Africa a few years later, where she helped set up a study for The New York Blood Center to discover the cure for Hepatitis B. With the encouragement of her future husband, Steve Gruberg, she became a contestant on the popular TV game show “$20,000 Pyramid” and won the grand prize, giving her the seed money to found AY&A, an award winning graphic design, marketing and branding company in New York City. “This site grew out of my personal need to connect with other caregivers and join a community where experiences and feelings could be shared, and support could always be gotten. People become caregivers for so many reasons. Creating a site that was a place all caregivers could come to air their feelings, find valuable information and discuss personal challenges was a dream we’ve made come true. Our site’s exclusive concern is to comfort and help all caregivers.”

  • (See bios for Colleen and Heather, above.)


Register for our conference via the form at the bottom of this post. After you submit the registration form, wait for the payment form to appear on this page. You must complete payment in order to be registered for our event.

Become an Exhibitor or Sponsor

Support family caregivers and former family caregivers by sponsoring and exhibiting at the First Annual National Caregiving Conference.

Attend for Free
Registration is free for our Saturday conference for family caregivers and former family caregivers who opt to participate in our Care-A-Van and/or What I Wear When I Care Fashion Show contests. Let us know if you’d like to participate in our Care-A-Van and/or What I Wear When I Care Fashion Show contests.

Conference Costs
Check out our National Caregiving Conference agenda.

  • Our Friday pre-conference intensives cost between $20 and $50 and are open to family caregivers, former family caregivers and professionals.

  • The cost for family caregivers and former family caregivers to attend our Saturday conference is $20.

  • The cost for professionals to attend our Saturday conference is $99 through September 21; the cost goes to $110 beginning September 22.

  • Add $15 if you’d like CEUs. In order to receive CEUs for Saturday’s conference, you must register at the professional rate for Saturday’s conference.

Registration for our Saturday conference includes a continental breakfast and lunch as well as access to our sessions and exhibitor floor. You’ll pay for your travel expenses, including your hotel stay.

We’ve been approved to provide continuing education hours for our Friday pre-conference intensives (4 hours for our four-hour intensive; 2 hours for our two-hour intensives) and for our Saturday conference (6.5 hours). Continuing education hours are provided by the University of Illinois, College of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine in collaboration with the Continuing Education Institute of Illinois.

The professions provided for are:

  • Acupuncturist

  • Athletic Trainer

  • Counselor-Professional/Clinical

  • Dental Hygienist

  • Dietitian/Nutritionist

  • Marriage and Family Counselor

  • Nurse (APN, RN, LPN)

  • Nursing Home Administrator

  • Occupational Therapist

  • Psychologist

  • Physical Therapist

  • Respiratory Therapist

  • Social Worker

Hotel Details

Our conference will take place on Friday, December 2, and Saturday, December 3, at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare, conveniently located minutes from O’Hare and a subway ride from downtown Chicago. The hotel offers free shuttle service to and from O’Hare. Daily hotel parking for our conference is $3.

To reserve a guest room for December 2 and/or December 3, please call the Marriott at 773-693-4444. Ask for the National Caregiving Conference special room rate of $119 per night.


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