My involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association began with a “walk”.
My grandmother’s walk to the corner deli! A walk she took several times a week for a turkey sandwich and a container of rice pudding. Only this day, when she walked out the door of the deli onto Baldwin Street, she didn’t remember which way to turn to get back to Edin Avenue and her home.
Thankfully, Ann, the owner of Ann’s Deli, recognized my grandmother’s confusion, walked her home and called my parents.
My first walk for the Alzheimer’s Association was at the first walk held at St. Margaret McTernan School in Waterbury. My grandmother took that walk alongside me.
Through the years, my mission to educate health care professionals in dementia care also took me walking at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk and the past 8 years at Bushnell Park in Hartford. Each year I have walked with a team of dedicated staff and family members.
For more than 30 years, I have walked the talk and talked the walk around the state by facilitating Alzheimer’s support groups in Skilled Nursing Facilities in Wolcott, Fairfield and currently West Hartford.
In the 1980s, when my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer ’s disease and would most benefit from nursing home care, I designed one of the first Dementia Specialty Care Communities in Connecticut, complete with a rummaging room, greenhouse that provided a year round garden for activities and dining, and an enclosed courtyard. The onsite child care center provided intergenerational programming. Programming also included music therapy, art therapy and pet therapy. She was able to enjoy a lifestyle that promoted her independence and dignity for 12 years, living to age 97.
At the Jewish Home for the Elderly in Fairfield, I was instrumental in the concept, design and implementation of a community dedicated to late stage residents when we realized that those who no longer could meet the expectations for mild to moderate living arrangements, would benefit from planned programming and structure unique to their needs. While to Director for Dementia Education and Programming at Saint Mary Home, the organization achieved accreditation by CARF for our Dementia Specialty Care Program in 2011. I am currently reviewing our program for reaccreditation in 2016.
The support of the Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut Chapter has been an inspiration and motivator throughout my personal experiences and professional career. Through the years I can always depend on my colleagues at the office. They provide the training and teleconference support of Support Group leaders as well as interim refresher courses. I always have access to educational materials for healthcare staff and family members and speakers for programs I’ve facilitated. The Angels of Mercy from Saint Mary Home raises money and an impressive team of walkers for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s with support and encouragement from the Chapter. I am fortunate to have been able to give back by serving on the committee for the Annual Education Conference for the past several years. I was also privileged to have been a part of the legislative task force on Alzheimer’s and Dementia which brought further legislation forward for Alzheimer’s awareness and education in the healthcare arena.