Nakum: Alzheimer's/Dementia Task Force

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Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are about people. My mother. Your father. Her brother. His wife. As I’ve engaged in the exploration and research of this disease, its presence in the Cleveland Jewish community, our many programs and services created to address patients, their families and caregivers, I am grateful for the tremendous candor and brave forthrightness of hundreds of people who have taken the time to meet, talk, and share their journeys. They are children, doctors, spouses, paid and unpaid caregivers, social workers, grandchildren, clergy, public policy professionals, lawyers, geriatricians, researchers – each touched by this disease – each struggling to make sense out of care, support, and planning.

Their stories – our stories – have informed and shaped our work. It is essential to acknowledge both the enormous number of individuals and families affected by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as well as the depth and magnitude of its emotional, physical, financial and social toll on individuals, families and our entire community.

I’m not sure that any of us involved in the Alzheimer's/Dementia Task Force, both professionals and laity, understood what an enormous job this would be – or how emotionally powerful and lasting many of our encounters would be. I owe a debt of gratitude to the fine, professional executives of our many community agencies who committed themselves to this process, brought their passion, personnel and programs with them and who engaged wholly in this effort, alongside one another, for the greater good. As well, my thanks go out to the diverse group of laypeople on this committee who brought heart, critical thinking, good sense and a generosity of spirit unparalleled. I have never chaired a committee with a better attendance track record or engaged participation. Last, but certainly not least, a shout-out to Shelley Fishbach and Melanie Halvorson who staffed this group and our process with finesse, diligence and commitment to integrity. All told, a finer group of people, working to make significant impact in the complicated world of dementia and aging, one could not find.

As for me, this work was challenging – and generative. As a daughter with a mother who has suffered with Alzheimer’s disease for almost 18 years, I wasn’t sure I could bear the constant barrage of information or emotion this engagement would bring. But I present this document with a sense of real direction and hope. The recommendations chart pathways that can and should directly impact the lives of hundreds of families in the Cleveland Jewish community for the better over the course of the next two decades. These initiatives can help us change the landscape of how we think about dementia, our notions of living and aging well, our plans for how to plan, and the mechanisms and processes that will be necessary to provide efficient, compassionate care and support as our community continues to age.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are about people. Now, it’s about you and me.

לא עליך המלאכה לגמור, ולא אתה בן חורין להבטל ממנה.
It is not incumbent on us to finish this work, but we may not desist from it. (Pirkei Avot 2:21)

Kyla Epstein Schneider
Chair, Alzheimer's/Dementia Task Force

January 2017 - Tevet 5777

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