JF&CS Volunteer News Spring 2011

Brush up and down, not across. Make little circles. Clean white surfaces and pink. Use a soft toothbrush instead of a hard one. Spend a minute on top and a minute on the bottom.

These are just a few of the tips that participants picked up at two recent oral hygiene training sessions for clients of the JF&CS CHAI Day Programs for people with disabilities. For these young adults, who have developmental disabilities, Down's syndrome, mental retardation, and autism, practicing good oral hygiene can prevent a host of short- and long-term issues.

"As a community-based day program, client hygiene and oral health need to be addressed because they can be a barrier for some when at employment sites or volunteering," said Sue Stellick, director of day programs for JF&CS Services for People with Disabilities.

Sue described how these clients are often "the face of somebody with a disability" when they are at a volunteer or work site and it is vital to show that they are responsible members of the community.

Proper health and oral hygiene also align with work and therapeutic goals in CHAI's holistic approach to client support. Sue said, "Our clients are presenting a new image, moving away from the stereotype of who someone with a disability is, and changing people's minds."

The sessions were run by retired orthodontist Dr. Murray Miller of Newton, who contacted JF&CS to offer his expertise. Over the course of his 40-year career Dr. Miller has made numerous appearances at schools and is active in the Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity, which raises money for dental care, and the Jerusalem Dental Center for Children, the second largest clinic in Israel.

An avid volunteer, he is also a Big Brother and works with the Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy to help elementary school children discover the joy of reading. "I wanted to volunteer more after I retired. Volunteering is important and we need more volunteers," Dr. Miller said.

In the past people with disabilities had limited access to doctors and dentists, especially the older population. Even today, some clients have insurance that doesn't cover all dental work. For clients with tooth decay the only option may be to pull a tooth that might have been saved with preventative care. "This is very proactive, helping people on a daily basis maintain oral health and avoid long-term problems, pain, or pulled teeth," Sue said.

JF&CS looks forward to future training sessions with Dr. Miller for other groups including teen moms and their babies and the elderly. "Dental hygiene is for everyone," said Dr. Miller.

"This is a service we would not have been able to provide otherwise. Dr. Miller's contribution is an excellent example of the way that JF&CS can partner with retired professionals," said Dvora Pemstein, LCSW, coordinator, Volunteer Services.

She added, "We have a wealth of professional education and experience in this community. I'm excited to foster this collaboration and I encourage others to call and talk about how to help our community in a non-traditional way."

If you are a retired professional who would like to share your expertise with the JF&CS community, contact Dvora Pemstein, coordinator, Volunteer Services at dpemstein@jfcsboston.org or 781-647-JFCS (5327).