Posted by Beth Soltzberg
"I fought it for so long. I didn't want to believe that my accomplished and competent mother had dementia," says Heather. "As soon as I gave into it and opened myself to being educated and supported," she adds, "I found another whole world out there, beginning with JF&CS."
Heather is a participant in Balancing Act, the JF&CS monthly support and discussion group for adults whose parent has dementia. Like other participants, Heather is adjusting to a new and evolving relationship with someone she's known all her life – a parent who now lives with dementia. The difficult emotional journey of adults like Heather is compounded by the need to make decisions and provide direct care, often while juggling work and other family demands.
Erika, another Balancing Act participant, describes her surprise at how it has felt to "lose a person even though they are still physically there." Like Heather, through support and education she has discovered surprising aspects of the dementia journey that can make it easier. For example, she has realized that "the things that are most painful to you are not necessarily painful to them." Says Heather, "My mother is very loving toward me when she knows that I'm sad or upset. It's nice to see that part of her can still be reached."
When asked what advice she would give to other adults in this situation, Erika says, "Get support. Don't let your own life and that of your other family members take a back seat to the care of the person with dementia." Heather adds, "Just knowing that this group is there with information, support, and understanding is helpful! It's so nice to know that I'm not alone in this, nor is my mom."
Balancing Act meets on the second Thursday evening of each month and each session focuses on a particular topic such as family decision making, using the creative arts to engage with a parent, the special stresses of the "sandwich generation," and finding ways to take care of oneself while caring for a parent. The group is facilitated by social workers Joanne Peskowitz, Geriatric Care Manager at Your Elder Experts, and Beth Soltzberg, Manager of JF&CS Alzheimer's/Related Disorders Family Support. A donation of $10 per session is suggested for those who can afford it.
Balancing Act welcomes new participants. The group is open to individuals whose parent is living with Alzheimer's, FTD, vascular disease, PD, or any other condition that causes dementia, at any stage of disease progression,. Please contact Beth Soltzberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-693-5628 to register before attending for the first time. Once registered, participants are welcome to attend any sessions they wish.
Beth Soltzberg, LCSW, MBA, manages the Alzheimer's/Related Disorders Family Support program, and works as a coordinator with the Parkinson's Family Support Program. These programs of Jewish Family & Children's Service encompass support, education, and the arts.Beth's work includes facilitating caregiver support and education groups, and designing new offerings for families affected by Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Beth earned her MSW and MBA from the University of Chicago and a certificate in end-of-life care from the Smith College School of Social Work. She holds an advanced credential in hospice and palliative care social work.