By Chanel Davis, Carolina Peacemaker Contributor

Almost 30 participants from across the state participated in this week’s Center for Outreach in Alzheimer’s, Aging and Community Health (COAACH) Caregiver College at North Carolina A&T State University.

The COAACH Caregiver College, also known as C3, is a community engaged and intervention based education program designed to improve awareness, care management and health outcomes for families impacted by Alzheimer’s through hands-on activities, evidence-based healthy aging modules and healthy living demonstrations.

On Tuesday, participants were given an opportunity to learn chair yoga, moving meditation, drumming and dance for themselves and for those they take care of. Demonstrated by Adam and Cheretta Bradby, from Creative Care Specialists in Greensboro, participants learn new techniques to keep themselves “centered and grounded” while caring for others.

Having had a grandmother who suffered from the disease, Cheretta found that dancing with her grandmother kept her physically active and uplifted.

“She was a music teacher. She played piano,” said Cheretta, who further explained that when she danced with her grandmother, they both practiced breathing techniques, which helped relax them both. “She would get irritable when the sun went down and that was when I would have the most trouble with her. But I noticed that playing music helped brighten her mood.”

Cheretta said that yoga, dance and meditation often utilize creative physical techniques that have been useful in alleviating stress and anxiety of caregivers and Alzheimer’s patients.

“It’s necessary to have some outlet. As a caregiver, you spend a lot of time caring for that person and when you’re caring for others, it’s easy to forget to care for yourself too. So, finding those small things that will help you implement self-care, then you’re able to give the care that you need,” said Cheretta.

Caregiver College participant Nadyne Brown, from Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston Salem, said that she was glad to be chosen by her church to attend. Her 98-year-old mother, who resides in Hamlet, N.C., has Alzheimer’s and often wanders so she can’t be left alone. Brown lives at Lake Norman and shares the caregiving schedule with her for siblings. “My mother did for me when I couldn’t do for myself so it is now my time to do for my mom and I don’t want any regrets,” said Brown.

“I wanted to know more about this disease and how it affects the mind, body and families. I don’t feel so alone in this now and I feel like I have an extended support group outside of family, friends and church members,” Brown said.

Brown said that she feels stronger about making sure there is a solid caregiver ministry offered at Emmanuel Baptist after the conference. She said she‘d also suggest that more men educate themselves when it comes to caregiving and Alzheimer’s and how nutrition plays a role in our health.

“Without mental and physical breaks, caregivers will become kills themselves. Then there is no one to take care of the loved ones. That’s when people end up at nursing homes with no one even checking on them,” she said. “I want to be able to go back and help others have a better understanding of what’s going on with your dealing with an Alzheimer’s patient or a terminally ill patient or whatever it may be and help give them some relief.”

COAACH Program Manager Grace Byfield said that the goal is to equip participants to go back to their communities and churches, share what they’ve learned and host three events in the next 12 months. The program is funded by the Merck Foundation.

“In a lot of community’s churches are the central point. Especially rural areas. There’s always a church,” Byfield said. “We felt like we could use this as a way to reach communities as a whole.”

Although this is the inaugural event, Byfield Is excited about the number of participants that have shown up and she looks forward to possibly offering the program twice next year.

“We’re excited about the interest. They’re [caregivers] are very engaging and enthusiastic right now and the hope is that they will be able to transfer that to folks in the community once they leave the training.”

For more information about C3 and COAACH, visit www.coaachhealth.org