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The Conference Presenters


When we organized our first Coping with Dementia Family Care Partner Conference in 2014, we resolved that it would not be an academic conference with medical and research experts speaking about how we all hope for a cure. We wanted to hear from hands-on practitioners speaking in plain language about the issues and struggles families living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia face each and every day.

Below are the presenters we have chosen for this Seventh Annual Conference, which we trust will again fulfill our desire to hear from those who have traveled the difficult path of dementia care with hope, innovation, creativity, and even joy!

Our slate of Presenters is subject to change. Any changes will be posted as promptly as possible on this page. Developments will be posted daily also on our Facebook pages: Coping with Dementia, Dementia Education Inc., and Citrus County Aware for Alzheimer’s.

Teepa Snow, founder of the Positive Approach to Care, is an advocate for those living with dementia who has made it her personal mission to help families and professionals better understand how it feels to live with the memory loss and the other associated challenges that come with Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia. Her techniques center around understanding we are dealing with people whose brains are dying, but instead of focusing on what they can no longer do, she chooses to understand what they have left to give.

Through a punishing travel and teaching schedule, and now through on-line appearances, she has influenced, taught, and certified thousands of care partners throughout the world in the philosophy and techniques of person-centered compassionate care.  Please visit Teepa Snow’s website: https://teepasnow.com/

Debbie Selsavage, was introduced to dementia when she became a care partner for her husband in 2004. She found it almost impossible to get information, support, and resources to deal with her difficult and exhausting task, and she felt there had to be a better way. She entered the field of memory care as an administrative assistant at an assisted living facility in 2012. Within 18 months, she became a certified administrator, earning a Deficiency-Free rating while managing a memory care facility.  She became a Certified Trainer in Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach to Care and in 2015 and launched her own company, Coping with Dementia LLC. Its mission is to make life better for individuals and families living with dementia.

She is a Certified Dementia Practitioner with additional certifications in the Positive Approach to Care, retains her certification as an assisted living administrator, a Director for the nonprofit Dementia Education Inc., and is a regular columnist for several regional publications. In 2017, Debbie was named a Citrus County Health  care Hero for public outreach by the Citrus County Chronicle.  Debbie can be reached at: deb@coping.today, and visit her website:  https://coping.today/

Gary Solomonson M.Div., has been active in the senior living and health care field since beginning his graduate studies in 1967. He has provided passionate leadership in working with aspects of memory care programs for four national senior living companies, and during COVID has facilitated monthly Zoom meetings for care partners at his church in Duluth, MN.

Gary holds a Master’s of Divinity degree from Luther Theological Seminary in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He currently works part-time in Business Development for The Goodman Group, a national assisted living development and management company based in Chaska, MN, and he works part time for his family business, The Red Bottom Boat, offering coaching for sales associates in senior living communities.  Gary can be reached at: gary@theredbottomboat.com

For video of Day One Morning Sessions, Click Here.
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Johnnie Jones III, is Coordinator of Caregiver Training and Support for Elder Options, the Mid Florida Area Agency on Aging. Johnnie has over 25 years of applied health and human services experience including 15 years in health education. He is a psycho-educator and trainer in numerous health curricula including the evidence-based Savvy Caregiver Training and Coping With Caregiving programs for dementia caregivers.

Johnnie is a Certified Dementia Practitioner, Certified Dementia Support Group Facilitator and Certified Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Trainer through the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners. He is a knowledgeable and engaging trainer with a passion for the subject matter.  Johnnie can be reached at: jonesj@agingresources.org

Teri Saunders Lonon, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Therapeutic Recreation from the University of Florida. She has worked in senior care facilities and communities for 15 years, working extensively with memory care residents and their families.  She has been   a caregiver support coach for 2 ½ years with Elder Options.  She is also a Certified Dementia Practitioner.  Teri can be reached at: lonont@agingresources.org

C. Renee Horne, MS, CDP, Renee has a Master of Science in Gerontology and currently works at Elder Options as a Caregiver Support Coach. Previously she worked at the University of Florida Institute on Aging as a Research Coordinator. In her personal life she has been an active event planner.

Renee has also volunteered at a senior recreation center, with a hospice doing home visitation and with a number of churches in senior and women’s ministries. She enjoys teaching for Elder Options as well as being out in the community helping with the unique needs of caregivers.  Renee can be reached at: hornec@agingresources.org

Pam Speta, and her husband Rich spent their entire marriage, like most families, working and saving until the day they could retire.  However, fate had other ideas. Several years after Rich’s diagnosis of dementia, he entered a long term care facility at age 68. Within the first week, he was put into chemical restraints. Having watched her fireman hero treated in that matter, she brought him home and continued to work full time outside the house. This experience led her to build the first dementia “interactive” village in the country, Forget Me Not Village and Care Home.  Pam can be reached at: pam@forgetmenotvillage.org 
For video of Day One Afternoon Sessions, Click Here.                                                              https://www.facebook.com/746623362177205/videos/782497135692172

Jonathan Beard, currently serves as the Program Specialist with Friends of Citrus and the Nature Coast, whose mission is to provide help, hope and healing to people in grief. Jonathan holds two degrees from Johnson University, Tennessee (B.A. Bible/Preaching 1989; M.A. New Testament Exposition/Preaching 1993) and a M.B.A. Degree from Brenau University in Healthcare Management 2009. He is a State of Florida-approved Alzheimer’s/Dementia trainer.  Having served as a hospice chaplain, Jonathan worked directly with dementia patients and their families at times of greatest need. His ministry experience includes five years of youth ministry and twelve years of preaching in the Christian Church. Since 2001, Jonathan considers his work of helping people, healing lives through all ages and stages of life as an extension of his ministry.  

Jonathan is thrilled to share life with his incredibly gorgeous wife, Kim, of 26 years, along with their beautiful daughter, Sarah (25) and their handsome son, Nathan (22).  Jonathan can be reached at: jbeard@friendsofcitrus.org

Sarah Elyaman, J.D., LLM, Founder, Absolute Law Group,  After graduating high school, Sarah had her heart set to attend the University of Florida.  Boasting an amazing educational career to include a master’s in taxation and her Juris Doctorate from the Levin College of Law, she is well equipped to tackle the legal issues that surround her passion, helping our most vulnerable population, Our Seniors!

After graduating from the University of Florida, Sarah knew where her passion would take her.  Starting a new legal firm from the ground up, meant a lot of work and responsibility but it also meant Sarah could follow her dreams.  Sarah is now the proud founder and principle attorney at Absolute Law Group.  Our practice focuses on aspects of Elder Law services.  This includes: Estate Planning, Wills/Trusts, VA Aid and Attendance, Long term care pre-planning and Probate and Guardianship.  Sarah can be reached at: info@absolutelawgroup.com

Alana Hanshaw, CDP, CADDCT, Executive Director, Absolute Law Group.  Alana is the Executive Director of Absolute Law Group. Alana was born in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. She has a passion for educating others on planning for the future and edcuating families on Alzheimer and dementia. She is a Certified Dementia Practitioner and Trainer as well as a Professional Guardian. Alana is on the board of Ocala Distance Project, which is a local non-profit helping young athletes in their running careers. In her spare time, Alana enjoys spending time with her family where they raise show lambs for Future Farmers of America known as FFA.  Alana can be reached at: info@absolutelawgroup.com 

For video of Day Two Morning Sessions, Click Here.

Diana Waugh RN, BSN, and Certified Dementia Practitioner, applies her out of the box approach to care of individuals suffering from memory loss. Over the last 30+ years she has worked to eliminate physical, psychological and chemical restraint use in care facilities. Her key to success has been through focusing on the social needs of the person. As a national speaker, a consultant, a researcher and a writer she strives to share simple, practical techniques that can make both family member caregivers and professionals, experts in memory care.  She states, “My goal is to ‘open the gates’ of the learners’ minds to different approaches for everyday challenges facing family member caregivers and professionals when dealing with individuals suffering from memory loss.  Diana can be reached at: dwaugh@accesstoledo.com

Joshua Freitas, is an award-winning memory care program developer, researcher, and author. As the Vice President of Program Development at CERTUS, Mr. Freitas creates our unique programs and engagement initiatives.  Over the past decade, Mr. Freitas has always taken a hands-on approach to serving those living with memory loss whether working as a Program Manager, Corporate Director of Memory Care, or as a national board member for various associations.

He holds five certifications related to dementia care and has studied at some of the world’s most renowned colleges and universities, including Lesley University, Harvard University, and Berklee College of Music. Mr. Freitas is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Clinical Gerontology and Aging Neuroscience. Mr. Freitas believes a dementia diagnosis should not be viewed as the end of life and to break the stigmas that impede progress and quality care we must all advocate for those with memory loss, and support their families and friends.  Joshua can be reached at: jfreitas@certusseniorliving.com 

For video of Day Two Afternoon Sessions, Click Here.

Ms. Georgette Bass,  is the Activity Director at Avante’ at Inverness, Florida.  She earned the  2018 “Media and Community Award” from the Florida Healthcare Association, which is the highest honor FHCA gives to a long-term care facility.   She has been employeed at with the Avante’ group for more than a decade.  Bass is currently studying for a Masters Degree in Behaviorial Psychology.  She states, “The most significant aspects of my career is the quality of life that we bring each day to the most vulnerable.  Throughout this pandemic our goals and aspiration has been to meet the needs of each of our residents.  My motto is, ‘I can, I will, I must. Failure is not an option!'”  Bass is a proud wife and mother of four, two of which were adopted in June of 2020.  Georgette can be reached at: gbass@avantecenters.com 

Teresa O’Brien-is a part-time activities assistant with Avante’ at Inverness.  She is a 48 year old mother of 2 grown children and wife of 29 years.  The sum of who I am is centered around Christ and it is his teachings that creates the lens that I see life, living, and community through.  I am a college graduate, but I find my worth in the lives that I can impact for the better.  When I am not longer on this earth I just want people to remember that I LOVED. Iam a certified nursing assistant for the past 8 years, and 3 years in activities. Teresa can be reached at: gbass@avantecenters.com

Mr. Daniel Jameson Georgette Bass, Activities Director at Avante at Inverness, writes, “Daniel is a loved resident in our home. He is like a ray of sunshine, moving about the facility gleaning moments of joy from his “hobbies.”  You may see him amongst the flower gardens, weeding, or in the common areas building a model plane or helicopter. During his working years he was a first responder (fire department), and during his retirement we are blessed to have him serving in our resident council, being an advocate for others.  He is an inspiration to all who are blessed to know him, living a fulfilling life in spite of his dementia diagnosis.  Daniel can be reached at: 352-726-3141

For video of Day Three Morning Sessions, Click Here.

Cameron Calaverne is currently the Community Liaison for Synexus Research in The Villages, FL.  His continued focus is on educating local providers, community agencies, and the public on clinical trials available in the area.

Cameron received his Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree from the University of Central Florida in 2012.  He spent 14 years working as both a mental health technician and a crisis evaluator/counselor at an inpatient community mental health hospital.  He transitioned into research in 2018.  His continued motivation for his work stems from experiences helping treat the elderly population with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as his personal experience with family history of the disease.  Cameron can be reached at: cameron.calaverne@globalaes.com

Ayesha Lall MD, is both a dedicated research investigator and a practicing clinician in NeuroPsychiatry.  Dr. Lall has been involved in clinical research for over 10 years. Her main area of focus is in memory care (dementia, mild impairment, healthy memory) and Psychiatry trials.  She is double board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in both General/Adult Psychiatry and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

She was a former faculty member and program director at the University of Florida. Dr. Lall is proud to call Central Florida home for 35+ years. She believes in empowering people to live healthy  lifestyles and to work on brain health, at all ages.  Dr. Lall can be reached at: 352-261-0901

Paula’s Pure Vintage, Paula Bateman–  Paula states, “I started singing nursery rhymes in the early ’50s. Mother played piano and my father played violin.  I taught myself guitar, keyboard, a little mandolin, and bass.  Playing for my mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, soothed her and made her happy.”  Bateman also writes music and books.  She is trained as a support group leader by the National Alzheimer’s Association and also by Debbie Selsavage, President of Coping with Dementia, and the Alzheimer’s Family Organization.  Her book, “A Walk Back Through Time,” is available on Amazon Books.  She says, “Music is a God-given gift. It flows through me, not from me. My passion is to share it with others.  My greatest pride is teaching others and seeing smiles, especially when residents in assisted living facilities sing along!  I have seen music change the life for not just people living with dementia, but for all people.”

Jim Davis-Jim Davis plays bass with Paula’s Pure Vintage.  He serves as vice president of the nonprofit Music In Medicine and helps mentor musicians who receive scholarships for training and certification.  He writes about local musical events and musicians for the Citrus County Chronicle and recently published a volume of poems.  Jim and his wife Nadia live in SugarMill Woods, Florida, with their dog Cheyenne who ate an earlier, but more interesting version of this biography.  

Barry Denham- Barry has played guitar and sung for better than 50 years. Since retiring three years ago, he has performed solo at Nursing Homes and other senior venues, festivals and private parties, as well as becoming a member of Paula’s Pure Vintage. He is an award-winning romance novelist and former member of Romance Writers of America. Two of his five novels were ranked in the top 100 Amazon Kindle Best Sellers, one peaking at number 13. His play, “And Everything in its Place” (a 3-act comedy), was a sell-out production at an 800-seat theatre on the Island of St. Croix. Dunham is married to his best friend, Karen, who is a teacher. They have five children and three granddaughters. He is a 20-year resident of Citrus County after living for ten years in the US Virgin Islands.  Paula, Jim, and Barry can be reached at: paulaspurevintage@gmail.com

Bill Coyle, For the past 30-years “Mr. Bill” has been physically, mentally and emotionally improving lives through his health & fitness services. His unique care, compassion, knowledge and energetic presence empowers people to believe in themselves and achieve results they never thought possible.  You will be inspired like never before.  Bill has degree in B.S. Exercise Science, certifications Advanced Council on Exercise, Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist, Strength & Conditioning Specialist.  He is prepared to be a leading force in helping the citizens of Citrus County improve their quality of life through health and fitness initiatives.  Bill can be reached at: 201-281-4444-call or text.

 For video of Day Three Afternoon Sessions, Click Here.

Linda Burhans is a national speaker and radio show host dedicated to the mission of caring for caregivers. As she says, “I am the gal who cares for caregivers with love, laughter, and lessons learned. As an expert in Caregiver Advocacy, Linda has facilitated over 1,800 support groups, speaking engagements, and workshops for caregivers. Her weekly radio show, “Tips for Caregivers” and her blogs provide expert guidance on resources and best practices.  Learn more at www.LindaBurhans.comLinda can be reached at: lindaburhans@aol.com

Susan Straley, has been writing down her thoughts and experiences in her journal since she was 16 years old.  When her husband George was diagnosed with dementia, she moved her journal online to keep her friends and family informed.  The stories and memories from her journal were the bricks that built her books about their adventures throughout his illness.

Her fun and inspirational books have many 5-star reviews on Amazon.  Now widowed, Susan continues to post her mishaps, musings, and miles of travels on her website, susanstraley.com Susan can be reached at: susan_straley_77@hotmail.com

Vicki Veasey, Author, Advocate, Alzheimer’s Caregiver and Coach.  She was her parent’s caregiver for more than 10 years; they both had Alzheimer’s. Vicki credits caregiving as an experience that enabled her to learn more about herself. The challenges of caregiving, coupled with recent widowhood, pointed Vicki toward God. Her debut work, Good Morning I Love You, Maintaining Sanity & Humor Amidst Widowhood, Caregiving and Alzheimer’s, provides an honest, raw glimpse into the world of Alzheimer’s caregiving. Once her parents died, Vicki embraced advocacy as a way to help others as they journey along a similar caregiving path.  Her advocacy includes a weekly video series posted on Facebook along with a twice monthly newsletter, Caregiving Tips from the Heart. As she likes to say, “No one should enter this world of caregiving without some idea of what to expect.” Vicki has become an impassioned voice for dementia caregivers.  Vicki can be reached at: vveasey75@gmail.com

Pastor Curt Seefeldt,  has served people with dementia as a parish pastor for 27 years. In 2007 he was called as Director of Church Relations by The Lutheran Home Association (TLHA). His duties included service as a chaplain at Wellhaven Senior Living and at its skilled nursing community in River Falls, Wisc. In 2011 TLHA published his booklet, It’s Alzheimer’s – It’s Time for Extraordinary Love. TLHA has distributed the booklet to thousands of families who are affected by the disease. Since that time he has facilitated hundreds of discussions to equip families and friends as they seek to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of those impacted by dementia, both those will the disease and their care partners.e an impassioned voice for dementia caregivers.  Curt can be reached at: cseefeldt@tlha.org

Ed Youngblood, has a Master degree in English Literature, served a 30-year career in nonprofit management, and for ten years ran his own communications and publishing company. His mother died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2008, and upon his retirement and relocation to Florida in 2011, he began to take an interest in dementia care when he and Coping with Dementia President Debbie Selsavage became committed as life partners. He is a Certified Dementia Practitioner, serves as Marketing and Communications Manager for Coping with Dementia LLC, and in 2019 founded the nonprofit Dementia Education Inc., which he still serves as President of the Board.  His recent writings include “A Handbook for Dementia Friendly Congregations” and “Dementia and Firearm Safety.”  Ed can be reached at: jungleeddy@aol.com

For video of Day Four Morning Sessions, Click Here.

Linda Boles’ nonprofit organization Find M’ Friends was founded in March 2014 by a group of friends passionate about Bloodhounds and their ability to trail a scent.  Their goal is to educate the public on the benefits of using scent discriminating bloodhounds to search for missing persons.  They train and certify Bloodhounds to be placed with law enforcement agencies for search and rescue.  They also manufacture and distribute “Out of Harm’s Way” human scent preservation kits to aid the scent-discriminating dogs in tracking and finding individuals who have gone missing​Linda can be reached at: 352-613-3486.

For video of Day Four Afternoon Sessions, Click Here.


     From the Modern Hippocratic Oath:

                          I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist drug.