Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Kindling human connections

Activities directors, other healthcare professionals and caregivers here is an interesting article I found in the
Jewish News of Greater Phoenix
Conference offers spiritual approach to dementia
snippet of song, a snatch of Hebrew verse, a squeeze of the hand.

Each has the capacity to kindle the vital human connections often lost or diminished by dementia. Exploring our ability to find and nurture those contact points, as a source of strength and comfort for both those with dementia and those who love and care for them, is the focus of an upcoming conference sponsored by The Deutsch Family Shalom Center of Temple Chai in collaboration with Hospice of the Valley (HOV).

"Finding the Sacred in the Journey of Dementia: Comfort and Care for Jewish Families," funded by a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation, is set for April 25 and 26 at Temple Chai. It includes a Saturday evening coffeehouse featuring music, poetry and a staged dramatic reading, followed by a Sunday afternoon of informational presentations and workshops. Speakers and facilitators include Maribeth Gallagher, a psychiatric nurse practitioner who is the dementia program director at HOV, and Rabbi Sheldon Marder, chaplain of the Jewish Home in San Francisco, who has created innovative ways to infuse geriatric care with Jewish spirituality.

Sharona Silverman, Shalom Center director, explains that the impetus for the conference came from a growing awareness of the increasing numbers of those with dementia and their families and a sensitivity to their needs. According to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, dementia is a general term that describes a group of symptoms such as loss of memory, judgment, language and other skills due to damage or death of brain neuron cells. Alzheimer's is one of the diseases that can cause dementia.

"Listening to our congregants, I could see the impact on them and their families," she says. A focus group last fall, followed by an HOV program earlier this year, reinforced her perception of the need to provide a communal response. HOV offers excellent nondenominational programming to a wide range of groups, but Silverman sought to provide a specifically Jewish response.

Temple Chai congregant Cathy Shalen, a focus group participant, emphasized the importance of addressing dementia in the community.

"People don't talk about it," says Shalen, who is caring for a family member in the early stages of dementia. Availing herself of resources, attending conferences and participating in a Shalom Center support group has helped immeasurably.

"I wish I had gone earlier," she says, noting the reluctance to confront dementia and seek help. "I could have been better prepared."

Silverman says the conference aspires to help the community understand the needs of those with dementia and the necessity for providing support for the individuals and their families.

"We want people to not feel so alone," she says, "and help them learn about some of the tools that can help."

The Saturday evening reading from "Greenland," an original work by Devorah Medwin, will help to initiate conversation and inspire communal response.

Medwin, a Valley writer who holds a master's in playwriting from the Actor's Studio Drama School in New York, wrote the short play about Alzheimer's while in graduate school. It turns on the reaction of three sisters to the growing realization that their mother is beginning to show signs of dementia. Valley actress and writer Debra Rich Gettleman will portray one of the three sisters in the play.

Medwin says the work explores the emotions that surface when confronted with dementia and the impending care-giving responsibilities it implies. The play, she says, is a vehicle for opening up the subject.

"Maybe people can't talk about it," she says, "but maybe a character can."

Gettleman says the play, and the transformational writing workshops that the duo will lead on Sunday, are designed to provoke discussion.

"It will open people up," she says of the dramatic portrayal, providing an opportunity for confronting issues and creating a sense of community.

Gallagher, who will speak on ways to enhance quality of life for both patient and caregiver, posits the growing need to learn about dementia as the whole aeticle

For a great resource for those with dementia, caregivers and healthcare professinals, click here

For information on being the best caregiver you can be, click here

For more interesting dementia articles and activities, click here

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