Pioneering Dementia Support to Families in Israel

August 6, 2013


Married for more than 50 years, Mr. D, 80, and his wife Mrs. H, 76, live together in an Israeli neighborhood close to their three married adult children.

Mrs. H was diagnosed several years ago with dementia and until recently attended a day center four times a week. But when her condition deteriorated, she was forced to spend her days at home with only her husband and a paid caregiver.

When Mr. D refused the couple’s children’s offer to help him care for his wife, they contacted a social worker and were referred to JDC-Eshel’s innovative Short-Term Individual Treatment Project.

The program focuses on counseling and support for caregiver spouses and their families to prolong the time a person with dementia can remain at home. It was launched in September 2011, when Professor Mary Mittelman of New York University led a training session for 16 facilitators at JDC-Eshel’s Glickman Training Center.

These professionals learned Professor Mittelman’s method of working with family caregivers individually and in groups. Currently 60 families are being recruited to benefit from the program.

JDC-Eshel partners on this critical initiative include the Israeli Association for People with Dementia (EMDA), Haifa University, and Israel’s National Insurance Institute.

After Mr. D’s children met with the social worker and called the EMDA hotline, he agreed to meet with a therapist, who scheduled six sessions to discuss his situation. One of those sessions included all of his family members.

Three months later, the social worker checked in with Mr. D and found him calmer and less overwhelmed. His children now share daily caregiving responsibilities with him, and Mr. D is even comfortable sometimes leaving the paid caregiver with his wife so that he can go out and meet up with a friend.

JDC is a pioneer in dementia care in Israel, also operating programs like: physical exercise and nutrition classes for people with dementia and their families; Brainspa workshops that stimulate the brain and enhance memory and cognition for people in day centers; providing “connection and talents” memory kits that include songbooks, memory games, and recipes to encourage conversation between older adults with dementia and their caregivers; and the Tzipora Fried Center for Supporting Families, which offers support groups to family caregivers in several Israeli cities.

With the number of Israelis facing dementia expected to hit 150,000 by 2015, JDC’s development of cutting-edge services for older adults in the country is critically important.

Eshel’s programs for the elderly are generously supported by The Maurice and Vivienne Wohl Charitable Foundation.

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