Something to Look Forward to: Alzheimer’s Care

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As an extremely passionate and well-known artist in the Baltimore area, Jerry Fox ran a jewelry business for 52 years. It was at age 85 while living in Florida that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his daughter Barbara Williamson, felt it would be best for him to come back up to Potomac, MD.

Since his move five years ago, Barbara quit her part-time job at a boutique in Bethesda to become his caregiver. “Dad was quite functional when he moved up here,” she said. “After seven months, I became aware that he needed to do something else…he needed some involvement and stimulation.”

Barbara learned about a program called Arts for the Aging where artists interact with aging services programs. Although the program was not completely appropriate for her father, they connected Barbara to Friends Club, a program that brings together active gentlemen in the early-to-mid stages of Alzheimer’s disease in a caring, safe and secure environment.

“My dad was never someone that was involved with group activities, but he loves going to Friends Club,” said Barbara. “They make each and every gentleman think that the program was created just for them, and we are letting the other guys in. They love it.”

While she said her father’s memory is not too good, he has been involved with the program for three years and is very functional in its setting. For Barbara, the program is great and a perfect match for Jerry who attends three days a week and is able to contribute to the group.

“Seeing my dad having something to look forward to has been an amazing experience,” she said.

And Barbara has even benefited from connecting with the wives and families of other participants. “We have a support group that meets twice a month, which has been amazing,” she said.

She continued, “The difference between Friends Club and other programs that I have observed is how much dignity they treat the men with. They are not treated as though they are ‘ill.’ The stories of these men are incredible; this is an amazing place for all of us.”

For others in the same situation, Barbara offered the advice of lowering expectations and raising one’s acceptance levels. Most importantly, she said, “Find a support group; there are others just like you out there and it helps to have someone else to talk to.”

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