April 23, 2014   23 Nisan 5774
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Living with Dementia Series
Mar. 29, 2013
The 'LIVING WITH DEMENTIA' program is a unique 10 week learning and support program for families experiencing dementia. The program is offered multiple times per year to both members of our congregation and the Jewish community.

Community Contact Information:
Holy Blossom Temple
Toronto, ON
http://www.holyblossom.org

Goals:
- Offer a unique program for family members who are caring for loved ones living with dementia.
- Offer a program for the loved who are experiencing dementia, that stimulates, challenges and enables them.
- Offer a program that encourages both care givers and loved ones living with dementia to come to the synagogue and experience a welcoming, sacred space.

Overview:
The 'LIVING WITH DEMENTIA' program is a unique 10 week learning and support program for families experiencing dementia. The program is offered multiple times per year to both members of our congregation and the Jewish community. With the recent praise it has received from participants we have now opened the program up to the Jewish community in the greater Toronto area.

Preparation:
It took a year to plan for the partnership, the recruitment and training of volunteers from the Holy Blossom membership and concerted efforts at marketing and promotion, before we were able to launch the program. Our marketing strategy to identify professional skilled volunteers first and then later, participants for the program, was to reach out to Holy Blossom Temple members through our online and paper-based newsletters, as well as personal letters from our Rabbi. We also acquired a half page article in the Canadian Jewish News and are now generating awareness about our program through agencies and the medical community.

Project Implementation:
Offered in the sacred environment of our synagogue, it is composed of 2 hour supportive learning sessions, for spouses or children caregivers. This program helps them acquire practical problem solving techniques and communication skills to cope with the challenges of caregiving. In parallel, there is a separate program with creative and stimulating activities for their loved ones who are living with dementia. The program concludes with a 30 minute spiritual dimension. Judaic and musical components are led by Holy Blossom Temple Rabbis and Cantors who bring both groups together in prayer and song. 'LIVING WITH DEMENTIA' has grown out of a partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital's Reitman Centre Carers Program and is conducted by a team of Holy Blossom Temple volunteers who are professionals in their respective fields, and have been trained by Mount Sinai Hospital for this particular program.
The Living With Dementia program was launched in the Spring of 2012. It was offered for a second time in Fall 2012 and will be offered again after Pesach 2013. We anticipate meeting the demand for this program in our community on an ongoing basis. The program is staffed with volunteer professionals who are members of Holy Blossom Temple. All volunteer staff have been trained in Mount Sinai Hospital's Reitman Centre program. Holy Blossom volunteers have each devoted more than 50 hours of their time to screening and training to be qualified as staff for the Living With Dementia program. Our volunteer staff consists of 3 group leaders: a seasoned adult educator/ group life coach; a psychiatrist and a registered art therapist. The volunteer team surrounding the leadership is made up of social workers, speech therapists, geriatric educators, art teachers and specially trained actors.

Results:
Our Living With Dementia program at Holy Blossom Temple offers these family member caregivers insight into how to cope with the emotional strain they are experiencing; new knowledge regarding dementia; self sufficiency, as well a group support . This program provides caregivers with methods to break down the challenges that they face every day into manageable problems, while helping them see ways in which they can still focus on themselves - beyond just being a caregiver. This program also offers the loved ones living with dementia a creatively stimulating, friendly, environment to experience new abilities, share concerns with fellow participants and add to their quality of life.
Our community, in fact society in general, must continue to find ways to support and equip these individuals who everyday face these care giving challenges all alone. The Holy Blossom Temple Program Living with Dementia, is a step toward filling that lonely, heart wrenching and confidence stripping void that exists for so many as they care for and watch their loved ones gradually slip away. The Living With Dementia program, taking place at Holy Blossom Temple encourages this growing population to return and find support within its sacred walls.

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