“Parkinson’s doesn’t just affect one person, it impacts the family—it’s a complete change,” said Janice Stolar, managing director for grants programs for the Sephardic Home for the Aged Foundation.

“It’s important to support the caretaker—almost as important as supporting the person who is suffering. The work that JF&CS is doing to support the caretaker is important.” Stolar was glad to award a grant to JF&CS, citing the organization’s stellar reputation and the work being done to support the community.

“Our foundation has a very strong commitment to making sure the Jewish elderly live their lives in dignity, with respect, and in as much comfort as they can,” said Stolar. “The Sephardic Home for the Aged is very generational. We were once a wonderful home, and we put our heart and soul into making sure that we were a place you could trust for elder care. Now as we transition into a grant-making organization, we recognize that we’re not the experts in this work. It’s important to us that we support the experts, such as JF&CS. We have a very strong commitment to providing that support, and thus supporting JF&CS.”

Arts-Based Therapeutic Activities

The Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program at JF&CS assists families as they live as fully as possible with the challenges of Parkinson’s disease (PD). For 12 years, JF&CS has been providing arts-based therapeutic activities, education, resources and a supportive community for people with Parkinson’s, while also supporting and educating caregivers and family members.

Therapeutic art activities include a choral group and a dance group, with more than 45 participants in attendance each week. “We use music and song as part of treatment for symptoms of Parkinson’s. What we observe is that people are joyful when they sing together. There’s a growing body of research that shows that group singing promotes resilience and provides coping skills,” said Anne Muskopf, the Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program director. “Dancing can also have a positive impact—some care partners join in as well. It promotes a sense of community and belonging for participants.”

Support Groups

Currently, Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support offers different groups to meet the needs of people with Parkinson’s as well as their care partners. Support groups provide Parkinson’s education, tools for PD self-management and strategies for caregivers.

These support groups, which include three in Waltham and one on the North Shore, are run by highly skilled social workers. Muskopf credits these program leaders with “their ability to create a space for care partners to open up and express the joys and sorrows of living with Parkinson’s and how their relationships have changed. These programs become a lifeline for care partners.”

A Welcoming Community

Stolar also pointed toward the education work being done by JF&CS. “We really believe in education and supporting organizations that are educating and helping around these issues.”

According to Muskopf, “The strength of our programs is in our welcoming environment and the strong sense of community we provide. Any level of participation is welcome; we are able to adapt the programs to fit everyone, and we value each person for who they are.”

If you have questions about Parkinson’s or would like more information about our programs, contact Anne Muskopf at amuskopf@jfcsboston.org or 781-647-JFCS (5327).

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