In ourlovedones

TORONTO — Holy Blossom Temple will once again offer its Living With Dementia program co-led by three Holy Blossom Temple members, as appearing in the photo – Esther Zeller, Sandy Atlin and Gerri Richman.

The 3 components of the program ‘Living with Dementia’ are:

  1. Therapeutic based learning and support for family members who have loved ones suffering with dementia
  2. Creative programming to add quality of life for loved ones with dementia
  3. A wrap up program inspiring Jewish Values for all participants lead by Rabbi Yael Splansky and other Holy Blossom Temple clergy.
Esther Zeller, Sandy Atlin and Gerri Richman

Esther Zeller, Sandy Atlin and Gerri Richman

Set to start again in March, Living with Dementia is a satellite program run in partnership with the Reitman Centre for Alzheimer’s support and training program at Mount Sinai Hospital, where the methods were developed.

Gerri Richman, who co-leads the 10-week program with Sandy Atlin and Esther Zeller, said it began in 2011 after Atlin, a retired adult educator whose husband has Alzheimer’s disease, approached then-spiritual leader Rabbi John Moscowitz and told him that due to the synagogue’s aging population, it would be helpful to bring in a support program.

Atlin said there’s a strong need for such a program to be available and accessible in our community.

The program, which is free, consists of support, education, coping and communication skills development for caregivers, as well as an arts-based program, which consists of social, cognitive and enabling exercises for loved ones with dementia. A spiritual component including all wraps up each session. The ‘Al & Dora Track Fund’ provides the required funding.

Professionals, trained by the Reitman Centre, volunteer their time to teach and facilitate the program.

Richman, a life transitions coach, said that “While there are some supports offered through various associations, there is still not enough practical coping skills development available to family members who face the shocking transition from spouse or child to caregiver. Most family members are ill-equipped to handle the complete shift in relationship and role. This change requires the support of others and should not be faced alone.” Esther Zeller a clinically trained and registered art therapist said that “When a person is challenged with losses due to dementia, that person and those around are usually consumed with what no longer works. But with creative arts programming, where no previous art experience is needed, a person’s ‘Abilities’ instead of ‘Disabilities’ are the focus”.

A recent participant in the program said it gave her an opportunity to think, question and challenge herself in the daily handling of many issues which have been suddenly thrust upon her.

“You really made us question many of our automatic responses with thoughtful and better methods. You allowed us to change and observe the change in others,” she said.

“The group has slowly coalesced into a wonderful support group where sharing information, resources and friendship have become so helpful in navigating the health-care system on a daily basis.”

For information on the program, call Elana Fehler, 416-789-3291, ext. 221.

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