Including Oral Health in Family Caregiver Seminars (ALTC)

The seminar series and conferences were created by SE-ALTC to provide education about various health topics for the family caregiver audience in the community. These venues were a natural opportunity to integrate information about oral health topics such as the connection between oral health and other chronic conditions. The key objective was to educate family caregivers about the importance of dental care and cleaning habits that produce good oral care; ways to manage dry mouth and other threats to good oral health; how to spot oral problems; and ways to connect to care.

Submitted by: SE Aging and Long Term Care

Seminar Series
The seminar series “Coming of Age with Aging Loved Ones” has been offered each year since 2006. Oral health was introduced into the seminar series in 2009.  It was well received and the topic of oral health was included again in 2011. The primary target audience was family caregivers but many seniors also attended the sessions. Presenters included local dentists, hygienists, and other local practitioners who could speak to local issues for the community. Oral health topics presented, and being considered for future presentations, include:

  • Mouth and feet: answers to your concerns
  • Dental care: a vital part of overall health
  • Diabetes and oral health
  • Helping clients with dementia care for their teeth
  • Dental care access (what is covered by Medicaid and what isn’t, resources in local communities)

The program started as an eight-week evening series, with several 2-hour presentations during each week of the series. A shorter version was introduced in 2010. For 2012, the program will be offered as a six-week series with a 90-minute format highlighting one topic per night. Attendees receive a “smile bag” containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss, along with handouts about dental care.

One day conferences have also been offered by SE-ALTC. Similar to the seminar series, the conference offers presentations on a variety of topics of interest to family caregivers and oral health is seen as an ideal topic to include. An upcoming conference will feature Teepa Snow, occupational therapist and nationally-renown expert on dementia, who will demonstrate her strategy for assisting a resistant person with dementia to brush teeth.  Also provided at the conferences are handouts on dry mouth and other oral health topics (see Resources section for ideas of handouts). Approach The approach for this program was to integrate oral health topics into an already successful seminar series.  Following are some of the key elements of SE-ALTC’s project plan:

  • Identifying topics and speakers: Identify oral health topics that are relevant, desired, and have the potential for benefitting family caregivers. Listen for topics that caregivers are interested in and identify professionals in your community who might have an affinity to share their knowledge in this forum. You might connect with I&A to find out about dental questions that clients have called about, or with case managers to learn about what they see as the greatest oral health needs of clients and their caregivers. Seek out speakers who are both knowledgeable and engaging. Consider both nationally known speakers as well as professionals in your community who can address the specific needs in your community.
  • Selecting the date and the venue: Aim to select dates that don’t conflict with holidays or other key community events.  When picking a venue, consider accessible parking and donated or low cost rental space.
  • Sponsorship: Find sponsors to support the expense of putting on and promoting the seminars: banks, insurance companies, durable medical equipment companies, home care agencies, health care professionals. Offer opportunities for recognition in flyers, and levels or types of sponsorship. Be creative! Binder sponsor, notepaper sponsor, postcard sponsor, media sponsor, door prizes, cookie sponsor, the list goes on. SE-ALTC was even able to get the keynote speaker to promote the event on a local morning talk show.
  • Marketing: Marketing included postcards, radio shows, and newspaper ads.
  • Evaluations: Collect feedback on the program and the demographics of attendees to help inform future planning.
  • Debrief: Debrief to identify what worked, what didn’t, and begin planning for next year’s seminar series.
  • Annual Planning: Start planning at least five months in advance.

Successes and Challenges


  • Getting information out there in an accessible and engaging format.
  • Sponsors saw value in name recognition opportunities.
  • Appreciation by participants of the learning and information.:


  • Raising the funds to cover expenses
  • Finding relevant speakers who are available and affordable (ideally, willing to present for expenses only)

Lessons Learned
Following are key lessons learned that may be helpful advice for AAAs interested in this type of program:

  • Start looking for speakers early – if the presenter is popular, he or she may be booked a year in advance! You may want to start planning the seminar series or conference a year in advance if you are seeking high-demand speakers.
  • Start with a bang! Present strong speakers upfront – this will set the tone for the entire event.
  • Get references on your speakers and, if possible, preview the speakers beforehand to assure that they are engaging and captivating speakers for your audience.
  • Have a back-up speaker. Emergencies occur and it is good to have someone available and ready to give a back-up talk, if necessary.
  • Coordinate with speakers early to identify and gather any handout materials for attendees. If the speaker is not planning to have any hand-outs, you may want to work with the speaker to identify a relevant resource that would support or augment their presentation.
  • Skinny binders or pocket folders may be sufficient for handout materials. SE-ALTC provided attendees with a binder, and each week attendees would collect new handouts to go into their binder.
  • Newspaper advertising is likely to be a successful form of promotion. (Through the evaluations SE-ALTC learned that most attendees heard about it through the newspapers, some through the postcards.)
  • The venue must be handicapped accessible with lots of easy-to-access parking.

Support Materials
The following materials from SE-ALTC may be of interest if you are planning a similar program.