A forum on Alzheimer’s Disease at Fordham Westchester focused on the treatment of those stricken with the illness and ways to support the people who care for them.
Ellen Imbiano, a care consultant at the Alzheimer’s Association, presented facts and information about the disease, which affects an estimated 5.4 million Americans.
Imbiano discussed the differences between normal signs of aging and indicators of dementia at the March 24 event. She said that Alzheimer’s diagnoses are expected to increase because Americans are living longer.
Rina Bellamy (GSS ’05) extolled the virtues of Mount Kisco-based My Second Home, an award-winning intergenerational adult day care program that she directs as part of Family Services of Westchester.
“On one side, we have children, and on the other side, we have adults,” she said. “It’s a community. It makes so much sense.”
My Second Home offers a day program where adults have a safe, supervised home-like environment with wellness activities, personal care, nutrition and transportation.
It shares a building with the Mount Kisco Child Care Center, a program for children and teenagers. As a result, both organizations partake in “Joining Elders with Early Learners” (JEWEL), a program that brings older adults and children together on a daily basis to share activities and life experiences.
Every day, children and their “grandmas” and “grandpas” from My Second Home come together in small groups. Whether they are drumming, dancing, creating great works of art, sharing stories or just eating breakfast together, these interactions are filled with fun, acceptance and mutual respect, Bellamy said.
“When you put children and older adults together, natural order kicks in. It’s almost like, ‘I’m the older person and I’ll take care of you,’” she said.
Bellamy recalled an instance in which a woman with Alzheimer’s, who didn’t want to eat, was joined in the cafeteria by a child who also didn’t want to eat. Upon learning this, the older woman told the girl she had to eat “to be strong” and then proceeded to eat as an example.
“We just stood back and watched it happen,” Bellamy said. “It really is amazing.”
Part of what has led to the awards won by My Second Home is its attention to caregivers, said Blaine Krieger, whose mother participated in the program.
“Every time I went [to My Second Home], I would see a participant in the director’s or another supervisor’s office. There is a connection between the person running the show and the participants,” he said. “It’s extraordinary.”
The March 24 event was cosponsored by the Ravazzin Center on Aging, which is a part of Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service.