I Know Expo wants to educate elderly, caregivers

Nearly five years ago, retired businesswoman Gale Reece helped found ITN Bluegrass, which helps provide seniors and the sight-impaired with transportation.

Starting the nonprofit — which required raising $125,000 and overcoming some legislative hurdles — taught Reece a thing or two, especially about the variety of services available for senior citizens.

With ITN up and running — the organization has given nearly 25,000 rides — Reece's focus turned to other ways to help seniors. One day, she had a eureka moment.

"We noticed that if people have transportation they can stay in their homes five years longer," she said. But even then, some of their clients needed services beyond just transportation.

That's when the seed for the I Know Expo took root. The event centers on issues that affect the elderly and their caregivers and will feature vendor displays and breakout sessions with speakers on subjects such as veterans benefits, prescriptions, housing options for those who can no longer remain in their home, fall prevention and financial exploitation.

Exhibitors include government and consumer organizations, housing alternatives and specialty services for seniors — everything from bath remodeling to the Body Recall exercise program.

"There are a lot of things out there, but there is no one place where you can get it all at once," until now, Reece said.

Reece has been the caregiver for three relatives and sometimes found that "finding resources on top of your loved one's decline or illness was impossible. ... Our target is really the people who are caring for others and people who are trying to find services," she said.

Based on national statistics applied to Fayette County, more than 87,000 people in the city's population of 301,569 provide care; of those, around 64,000 work, and more than 52,000 take some time during their workday for caregiving duties.

Laura Dake, executive director of ITN, said her organization had been seeking a signature event.

"We had been noticing over the past four years that people who are in caregiving are stressed out," she said. "We've had people ask, 'What do I do for Mom?' This is a really stressful thing for people, caregiving."

The I Know Expo "is a niche in the community that hasn't really been filled," she said.

People are urged to attend the expo if they need help getting to doctor's appointments without asking for help, learning the difference between forgetfulness and early-stage dementia, managing caregiver stresses, finding free services for seniors and setting up wills and trusts.

Patrice Blanchard, an associate director of the Kentucky Branch of the AARP, a presenting sponsor of the event, said she hopes the expo will be repeated annually because there's no set path for any caregiver and senior situation.

"It's not like we can write out this one formula to every individual who is in a caregiving situation," Blanchard said. "The caregiver may be working, they may be able to stay home, they may be sympathetic to the changes going on because they're feeling the same changes, or they may be young. ... There are so many different variables, you can't just give a single answer."

For baby boomers considering attending the expo with aging parents, "our product is information," Reece said. "There are things you can do, but you have to start planning for it."

I Know Expo

When: Noon-6 p.m. April 14

Where: Lexington Center, 430 W. Vine St.

Cost: Free

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