Making Connections
Your Monthly Update on Our Work and Impact
Dear Friend,

Taking care of ourselves during the trials of the last 18 months has been hard enough. But when I talk with people who are caring for young children, adult children with disabilities, or aging parents, it is clear what an additional weight they have carried.

Supporting caregivers is core to the mission of JF&CS – from helping new parents through the bleary-eyed first days with a baby to helping families grieve the death of a loved one.

The story of Wellesley resident Gloria Rose shows us how even people who do so much to care for others sometimes need help, too. Gloria was a longtime volunteer in our Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms program and is an active Family Table volunteer and donor to JF&CS. She shares:

“When I was a Visiting Mom, I wasn’t having any more children so I knew I wouldn’t need its services. I volunteered at Family Table, and I thought I would never be hungry. But there came a time when I needed JF&CS. My husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. We went to the JF&CS Memory Café every month. It was a room full of people who should not have had much hope. There’s no cure for this disease. But for 90 minutes, we were all humans, enjoying the art and music. I just remember feeling good.”

In this month’s issue of Making Connections, we share updates on how we’re caring for the caregivers in our community. Thank you for supporting this important work.


Gail Schulman
Chief Executive Officer
Your Elder Experts is a team of caring professionals at JF&CS who guide older adults and their families through the complexities and challenges of aging well. As a one-time consultation or through ongoing care management, we work with older adults, their care partners, and their families to enhance quality of life, encourage independence, and provide a safe and supportive living environment.

This expertise and compassion can be an invaluable source of support and assistance in both times of crisis and day-to-day living. Inquiries into support from Your Elder Experts have been on the rise and we are working to grow the program in response to this need.

Two recent thank you notes illustrate the power of this service:

"Please know that you have been an angel through every moment of this process…you gave so much to our family over these years. I am grateful for you and have love for you in my heart." - Matt, son of a Your Elder Expert client

"I wouldn’t have wanted anyone but you holding the phone when I said my last goodbye to Mom…somewhere along the line you stopped being a care manager. You are a member of our family." - Debbie, daughter of a Your Elder Expert client
“Music brings us joy, and joy makes us strong,” adorns the back of each official Tremble Clefs choir t-shirt. The choir – part of the Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program – provides community and camaraderie for people with Parkinson's and their caregivers, while also providing crucial opportunities to exercise throat and larynx muscles affected by the disease.

On October 18, the Tremble Clefs gathered in the JF&CS parking lot for a driveway choir, covered by the Channel 7 evening news. Though they’ve held Zoom rehearsals during the pandemic, chances to sing together in person have been few. Reunited, the Tremble Clefs sang and found commonality once more that went far beyond their shared illness.

"The number one benefit is the camaraderie…I haven’t seen some of these people in over a year and a half and it’s just really nice to reunite with them."
- Ed Polansky, member of Tremble Clefs for five years

“Doing things with other people gives you hope. It was really crucial to be able to connect to this choir because hope keeps you going.”
- Bryna Leeder, Tremble Clefs member

"There's more than physical help, there's emotional help as well...it's very powerful to be with people who understand what your challenges are."
- Marilyn Okonow, Tremble Clefs conductor
The JF&CS Kids Connection Corner program provides a virtual space for children with disabilities to socialize with other children and enjoy enriching activities like arts and crafts. Families with children with autism spectrum disorder are often so focused on basic skills and schooling that it can be hard to find opportunities for pure fun in an appropriate peer group. Importantly, Kids Connection Corner also offers an opportunity for their parents to take a breather and engage with the rest of their family.

By recognizing the needs of these parents – especially during the pandemic – JF&CS services can help reduce stress, forge stronger familial bonds, and provide families a much-deserved respite.
 
"It's a wonderful opportunity for the rest of us to spend time as a family in a relaxed manner, knowing that Kayla is happy and being well-cared for. She just seems more relaxed in the evening…we just seem to interact more as a family."
-Kathryn, Kayla’s mom, Kids Connection Corner participant
The JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support works to ensure that parents and children have access to the compassionate support they need to fully thrive and successfully grow together. Our support groups offer a space for parents to learn and express themselves with other parents on a variety of topics, such as postpartum depression, raising toddlers, or raising an adopted child. Our Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms program provides care for parents during their child’s first year of life, matching them with trained volunteers who can help with adjusting to parenthood, feeling overwhelmed, and any other struggle, big or small. The Fragile Beginnings program’s goal is to improve the lives of parents of infants born prematurely or who have stayed in the NICU, offering guidance and therapeutic support.

Raising a child is a collaborative process, one in which seeking assistance is a remarkable strength, not a weakness. Through these services and many others provided, CERS help parents embrace that strength.
Many of the JF&CS programs to support caregivers are powered by volunteers, including some programs mentioned in this newsletter.

  • Through the Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms program, volunteers provide weekly visits to new parents adjusting to the demands of parenthood.
  • The JF&CS Memory Café offers a welcoming place for people living with Alzheimer’s or a related disorder and their care partners. Volunteers are needed to help with logistics and greeting participants.
  • Our Okonow Parkinson’s Therapeutic Movement and Dance program is seeking volunteers to help with set up and support to participants.
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