Chavi* was a young teen. Two of her older brothers were away in Yeshiva and the rest of her siblings were married. Chavi enjoyed the best of both worlds – a large supportive family and having Mommy almost all to herself. They shopped together, cooked together and shared meaningful conversations about Chavi’s social life and plans for the future. Until one day when Mommy wasn’t there. Oh, she was there physically but something wasn’t right. They had been shopping for summer clothes when Mommy insisted on buying a rattle for Mindy, one of her nieces. Mommy just wasn’t hearing her when she reminded her that Mindy was now four years old. Then there was the time Mommy, who hardly ever raised her voice, called Rochel, Chavi’s older sister, screaming at her for forgetting to pick her up to go to the shiur (lecture) last night. Except there had not been a shiur last night.
Like any teen, Chavi had sometimes objected to her mother’s rules, often quite vociferously, but part of her knew, inside where it counted, that Mommy was right and she could depend on her help when a problem would arise. And now? Now the Mommy that she knew was no longer there.
Yes, it was Alzheimer’s. At fifty-two, her mother was among the growing group of young people afflicted with early onset of Alzheimer’s.
Always on the cutting edge of the varied needs of the population, Ezer Mizion plans to expand its Alzheimer’s Program with a social club for young victims of the disease. The need is desperate as early onset greatly affects the family fabric and frequently heaps an almost unbearable load of pressure and tension on its members. Many times, at the primary stage of the disease, there are still children living at home, who are compelled to cope with the distressing reality. The diagnosed parent, who, until a short time ago, was the all-powerful image in their lives – suddenly has become detached and dependent on those around him.
The club will be defined as a social club, placing the emphasis on maintaining and enhancing cognitive function and social capabilities. Therefore, the activities will focus on multi-sensory and cognitive stimulation (physical exercise, music, board games, and arts and crafts).
Once every two weeks, there will be a support group session for family members led by social workers.
Part of the goal in creating such a program is to raise awareness of the subject to the public agenda. The program will be accompanied by an evaluative study to assess its contribution to participants and their family members. This study will contribute to an acknowledgment of the phenomenon of young Alzheimer patients and their needs by government entities, such as the Social Services/Health Ministries or the National Insurance Institute. Ezer Mizion’s hope (as seen from previous organizational experience) is that this will spur them to give their aegis to the program, fund it, and support similar programs in other regions of the country.
It is important the this group of young Alzheimer’s patients be recognized as a separate group with its own unique needs which will, in the future, be fully met both by the expansion of programs such as Ezer Mizion’s new planned undertaking and government funding.
Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.