ONEONTA _ About 100 caregivers, family members and health-care providers met Monday to share information and ideas about caring for patients with Alzheimer's disease and other dementia.

The sixth annual Leatherstocking Conference for Caregivers at the Holiday Inn in Oneonta offered workshops throughout the day. Speakers reviewed community resources, practical techniques for caregiving, long-term residential options and how to cope with the emotional impact of having relatives with dementia. Speakers included caregivers, nurses, social workers and other professionals.

Organizers and volunteers met after the program ended at 4 p.m. to plan the Memory Walk, which will be May 3 at the Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta. Registration begins at 10 a.m., and the walk will begin at 11 a.m.

Gayle Heller of Oneonta said her father has Alzheimer's disease, and she volunteered to walk in last year's event. In a short time, she said, a team of 20 walkers had formed.

``I didn't even have to ask people to join,'' she said, and the team raised $5,000.

Last month, she organized a spaghetti dinner that raised $572, she said, and this year, she made a quilt that will be offered in a raffle to benefit the association. The money supports the helpful programs and services offered by the association, she said.

Teresa Welsh, a case manager at Hampshire House, also has volunteered to help with the local Memory Walk. At Hampshire House in Oneonta, nine residents and three relatives have signed up.

Welsh was among panelists from Otsego Manor, Catskill Area Hospice and Palliative Care, Robynwood Home Care and Countryside Care Center in Delaware County.

Panelists shared information about options for care, and encouraged caregivers and relatives to tap into local resources to ease the burden they or relatives might feel, Welsh said.

``They really need to reach out and use these resources,'' she said.

The program also offered a ``Virtual Dementia Tour,'' a trademarked training tool. The exercise is designed to offer participants experiences from the perspective of someone with dementia.

About 15 participants went through the tour Monday, said Jamie Mitchell, of the Alzheimer's Association. Participants are asked to do simple tasks, she said, and the experience prompts emotional responses and compassion for patients with dementia.

``Everyone is different,'' said Mitchell, a telephone help-line specialist with the organization in Albany.

The Alzheimer's Association of Northeastern New York serves 17 counties, including Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie. The 24-hour answer line is (800) 272-3900.

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Denise Richardson can be reached at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 213, or at drichardson@thedailystar.com.

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