Posted by Beth Soltzberg
We all forget things. How many of us wonder if losing the car keys signals the beginning of Alzheimer's? And if you or a loved one did receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or a related disorder, how would your world change?
Alzheimer's disease and related disorders can now be diagnosed earlier in the disease process than ever before, sometimes when people have very few symptoms. An increasing number of people live with the diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. But despite breakthroughs in diagnosis, there still is no cure. Often, the stigma of dementia isolates people just when they need support the most.
On Sunday, December 8, Jewish Family & Children's Service and the Alzheimer's Association, MA/NH Chapter will join forces to offer a one-day conference, Joining Our Voices. This conference is designed for individuals and family members affected by early-stage Alzheimer's or a related disorder and professionals who work with them. Joining Our Voices is made possible through generous support by the Lebovitz Family Charitable Trust.
Joining voices is the goal of this event in two ways. First, the conference will open with a panel of individuals who will share their experience of living with early-stage dementia. Like notables such as Glen Campbell and Pat Summitt who have announced their own diagnosis of Alzheimer's, these individuals have chosen to come out publicly in order to put a face on this disease. By doing so they show that people with dementia are people first, with ongoing value and capability, and that they can help others learn how the experience of dementia shapes life and how families and communities can respond.
Second, the conference will welcome guest artists who will guide participants in expressing their strengths and challenges through a group creative process in music and art. Featured artist Judith-Kate Friedman, founding director of Washington-based Songwriting Works, has worked with hundreds of groups to create more than 300 songs, and she emphasizes that no experience is necessary. "As a composer and singer my aim is to celebrate beauty, honor heritage, restore some spunk, and ignite imagination," she says. Because musicality and creativity are capacities that dementia tends to spare or even enhance, the conference will emphasize the strengths of individuals living with dementia.
The conference will also feature workshops for professionals interested in learning about early-stage dementia and the power of incorporating the expressive arts in their work.