created at: 2013-12-13“While dementia changes memories and perception, creativity and music endure.” Those were the words of Judith-Kate Friedman, founding director of Songwriting Works™, one of four guest artists at Sunday’s Joining Our Voices conference. A crowd of 100 gathered at JF&CS Headquarters in Waltham to hear from a panel of those living with early-stage Alzheimer’s. Participants then worked with Judith-Kate and singer-songwriter Bernice Lewis on collaborative songwriting and with guest visual artists Elena Clamen and Esther Friedman to make a paper quilt.

Stephen & Lisa Lebovitz and Beth Backer spoke about their family members to whom the conference was dedicated. The conference was made possible by generous support from their family charitable fund.
   
The panel, moderated by Nicole McGurin from the Alzheimer’s Association of MA/NH, spoke from the heart about receiving the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, deciding who to tell and how, coping with memory and perceptual changes, and finding new, meaningful activities. A powerful moment for everyone was hearing one family describe how much more energy they felt once they finally shared the diagnosis with friends. The audience then laughed along as one panelist, a PhD from MIT, joked about losing his car repeatedly. The panelist’s open-hearted humor set a tone for the day and went far to reduce the stigma of this disease that he called “the new leprosy.”

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