Get to Know Our May #CareChat Guests, Dr. Jason Karlawish & Fern Pessin

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Get to Know Our May #CareChat Guests, Dr. Jason Karlawish & Fern Pessin

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May’s #CareChat is happening Thursday, May 27th at 12pm ET, and our topic is one that is on the top of every caregiver’s mind right now: The mental health impacts of the pandemic and transitioning into a post-vaccinated society. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. Joining us for this conversation are authors Dr. Jason Karlawish and Fern Pessin who will talk about managing caregiving and caregiver stress post-COVID. 

Add May’s #CareChat to your calendar.

Tell us your credentials and some background on any caregiving-related work you’ve done.

Dr. Jason Karlawish: I am a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, co-director of the Penn Memory Center and author of “The Problem of Alzheimer’s: How Science, Culture and Politics Turned a Rare Disease into a Crisis and What We Can Do About It”.

Fern Pessin: I am an author/writer, caregiver, and daughter with a Bachelor of Arts in Education and am in the process of earning a Master’s Degree. I am also a Task Force Member appointed by the Governor's Office for the Dementia Care & Cure Initiative (DCCI) to make Florida a dementia-friendly state. I am a member of the Interprofessional Advisory Group at Florida Atlantic University, working on easier-to-understand and complete advance directives. I have an advisory role at Healthier Boynton Beach where I help create programs that support caregivers in Boynton Beach, Florida. I also offer presentations and keynote addresses. I was formerly a volunteer and judge on a Dancing with the Stars fundraiser for the Parkinsons and Alzheimer’s Disease Music Program. I volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Walk, Boca Raton chapter.

Have you ever been a family caregiver or know anyone who has been? What was that experience like for you?

Jason: Yes, both professionally to thousands and personally to one, my father with Alzheimer’s disease. Witnessing and living it has shown me how caregiving is work but not mere custodial work. It is morally challenging work. And this moral challenge is made tragic in a system that fails to support caregivers.

Fern: I officially began caregiving for my parents when I moved to Florida in 2016. Prior to that, I managed their New York home when they were snowbirds and ultimately sold it for them. 

I’ve been caring for people and animals all my life. From taking care of my siblings while both parents worked, to moving in with my grandmother as she died from cancer, caring for a boyfriend with cancer, and my mother who had bone cancer in 2006. 

What do you think caregiving will look like in the coming months or years while navigating a post-pandemic society? Is it even safe to say we will be in a post-pandemic society anytime soon?

Jason: Caregiving might look better because America is now “woke” to caregiving. In the past many months, we have all been living what it’s like to be a caregiver in America. I am cautiously optimistic that the efforts to rebuild America’s infrastructure will include building the long-term care services and supports we need.

You have written about mental health and caregiving both before and through the pandemic. What mental health challenges or improvements do you see for caregivers in a post-vaccinated society?

Fern: I think that the technological resources that have become common usage will persist after COVID restrictions are lifted which allow us to find people with similar experiences to ours around the country/world. Virtual conversations, like the #CareChat, enable us to share our challenges, victories, resources, and humor with a wider community. We can be caregiving at home with our loved one(s) and find more on-demand peer and professional support. Before COVID, if you couldn’t make it to a caregiver support group, you found yourself on phone hotlines or reading articles. 

I believe that the negative feelings we have around caregiving (guilt, frustration, overwhelm, anger, resentment) are what can wear us down. It’s amazing to know that others are going through the same thing. You are not alone and others have suggestions to offer to make it better either in the moment or over time. Conversely, the joy and celebration people share about being able to spend time with their loved one, heal and care for them, and be a support to the whole family is uplifting.

Are there any resources you would like to share with family caregivers?

Jason: Alzheimers.gov is a great starting place. Also Viktor Frankl’s "Man’s Search For Meaning".

Fern: "I’ll Be Right There: A Guidebook for Adults Caring for their Aging Parents"; "I’m Not Gonna Live Forever You Know: A Guidebook for Communicating Your Wishes to Loved Ones" (coming soon, for updates visit FernPessin.com).

Click here to get Zoom details for May’s #CareChat, and don’t forget to come with questions! We look forward to seeing you there.


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