Living with dementia, with dignity.
By Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit
March 2, 2020
For the Dorothy and Peter Brown Jewish Community Adult Day Program it’s simple: dementia might hide the person underneath, but there’s still a person inside who needs love and attention. As they celebrate their 20th Anniversary, the Brown Program continues to honor the person inside, connecting those they care for to a clearer sense of self.
The Brown Program was created by Dorothy and Peter Brown from their own experience of caring for a loved one living with dementia. A joint venture between JVS Human Services and Jewish Senior Life, with locations in Southfield and West Bloomfield, the program offers individualized programming for people struggling with cognitive change — and a reprieve and support for their family care partners.
Programs such as music, art, yoga, exercise, field trips, cooking, group discussions and cognitive exercise are all designed by the Brown Program to purposefully engage participants, always with the aim of enhancing their dignity and boosting their self-esteem.
Debra Yamstein, VP Senior Adults Services & Community Inclusion, says that the Brown Program provides a place where people feel safe, engaged and have renewed meaning in their lives. “We regularly have participants say: ‘You have given me my life back’ and we have an equal number of family care partners saying the same thing,” says Yamstein. “We do everything we can to bring their ‘personhood’ back, to help them to connect to who they were before the onset of dementia.”
“I feel very fortunate that I’m in a position where every morning I wake up and I’m excited to go to work,” said Jennifer Kellman, Site Supervisor at the West Bloomfield location who is celebrating her 20th year with The Brown Program. “It is a privilege to work with a really special population of people. The memories and experiences they share with us are a huge resource in how we can help them live their lives to the fullest. Really, they are so much fun, and you can see how much they enjoy being in a social setting with their peers, actively engaged and making new friends.”
The longevity of the staff, in an industry which has a fast turnover, is just one aspect of what makes the program so powerful for the people who attend. “Our direct care staff have been with us for an average of 12 years. In an industry where one to three years is the normal turnover, our situation is unique, but it shows how deeply our staff are invested in our mission, to bring joy to the lives of people living with dementia,” says Yamstein.
The Brown Program has a dual mission: to support and enhance the lives of people affected by dementia, while at the same time assisting their family care partners. This support of family is something social worker Dorothy Moon, who’s been with the Southfield-based Brown Program for 20 years, takes pride in. Her role, which includes assisting family care partners, running support groups and handling case management for future planning, is vital for an important part of the Brown Program’s mission, to keeping people living in their homes, in their familiar surroundings, for as long as possible.
Moon appreciates how the center constantly strives to implement new strategies to benefit participants. “These people have a right to live life to the fullest and there are still ways to engage them, even if they have trouble with cognition,” she says.
With half a million family members in Michigan caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia — frequently juggling work-life, home-life and caregiving — resources such as the Brown Program are necessary and welcome. Helping to restore a more profound sense of self to everyone.
The Dorothy and Peter Brown Jewish Community Adult Day Program is a nonsectarian program dedicated to supporting people living with dementia and their family care partners. It is designed to enhance the dignity, self-esteem and well-being of each participant through engaging programming and socialization, provided in a warm, safe and secure environment. In collaboration with family care partners, the Brown Program helps participants age in place by providing support and respite services to their care partners, while enhancing the participants’ quality of life.
Hours for participants are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., although arrangements can be made for needs outside of regular business hours. Participants attend on a schedule, a minimum of two half days a week, and the program is open to all people living with dementia, regardless of religious beliefs. Needs-based scholarships and funding through AAA-1B state programs are available.