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Building Bridges

Memory Bridge Brings Together Community, Alzheimer’s Caregivers

August 20, 2013
By LINDA COMINS - Life Editor , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Preparation is continuing and the registration deadline is nearing for the Memory Bridge workshops planned in Wheeling in mid-September.

Faith in Action Caregivers and Altenheim Resource & Referral Services are bringing two experts to the community to conduct workshops for professional and family caregivers and for those who provide spiritual care for people who are living with Alzheimer's disease.

The special program, "The Memory Bridge: Creating Meaningful Communication for Those Living with Alzheimer's Disease," will be conducted at Wheeling Jesuit University's Troy Theater Tuesday through Thursday, Sept. 17-19.

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Clinical social worker Naomi Feil will present a workshop for family, volunteer and professional caregivers on Validation Therapy on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 17-18 at Wheeling Jesuit University’s Troy Theater.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 17-18, clinical social worker Naomi Feil will present a workshop for family, volunteer and professional caregivers on Validation Therapy, which she created between 1963 and 1980 in response to her dissatisfaction with traditional methods of working with severely disoriented individuals.

The workshop will conclude Wednesday, Sept. 18, with a presentation by Michael Verde, founder and president of Memory Bridge: The Foundation for Alzheimer's and Cultural Memory, who will address "The Spiritual Nature of Dementia Care."

Participants must attend both days of the workshop. The cost includes materials, continental breakfast, lunch and breaks both days. Continuing education units for nursing and social work are available for an additional fee. The two-day workshop is open to the public.

In addition, Verde will present a one-day workshop Thursday, Sept. 19, on spiritual care for those living with Alzheimer's disease. This workshop is open to clergy, parish nurses, deacons, elders, pastoral associates and others who provide spiritual care for those in their congregations who are living with Alzheimer's disease. The cost of this session includes continental breakfast, lunch, breaks and materials. West Virginia nursing continuing education units are available for an additional fee.

The registration deadline for both workshops is Friday, Aug. 30. Participants can register online at Registration forms also can be obtained by calling Faith in Action Caregivers at 304-243-5420 or Altenheim Resource & Referral Services at 304-243-0996.

Jeanette Wojcik, executive director of Faith in Action, regards the workshops as "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Referring to Feil's presentation, Wojcik commented, "There are few opportunities to learn the Validation Therapy techniques directly from the person who developed the techniques that enhance the dignity and quality of life for those struggling with this disease."

Feil, who is 81, "has taught Validation Therapy to more than 80,000 professional and family caregivers on six continents," Wojcik said, adding, "Having her come to Wheeling is a significant event and it is unlikely that she will ever be able to return to Wheeling."

The Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley is providing financial support to bring Feil and Verde to Wheeling. Villa Royal and Villa Vista in Steubenville are providing additional financial support for the project. Wheeling Jesuit University is donating the use of meeting space for the workshops. Bethany College is providing the social work CEUs for Feil's presentation.

Ann Koegler, coordinator of Altenheim Resource & Referral Services, said the organizers are happy to have the collaboration between Faith in Action and Altenheim Resource & Referral Services and Wheeling Jesuit and Bethany. "The Memory Bridge has certainly served as a bridge for local organizations to work together for the greater good of our community," Koegler commented.

Wojcik believes the program is timely because, reportedly, one person is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease every 69 seconds. "The number of people living with Alzheimer's disease is expected to increase in the coming years as our population continues to age," she said.

Feil has explained that validation is a tested model of practice that helps older disoriented people reduce stress, enhance dignity and improve happiness. Validation accepts the person who returns to the past. The retreat is seen as "survival," not mental illness or disease.

Feil has written numerous articles for professional publications, several books and 11 award-winning film scripts.

Verde is an author and holds a master's degree in theology. Memory Bridge creates programs that connect people with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias to family, friends and other people in their community. The organization also creates programs that reveal the depths of memory that dementia does not erase.

Verde was instrumental in the development of an interview guide used by the Library of Congress Veterans' History Project. He also developed and implemented an award-winning curriculum and school program called The Memory Bridge Initiative. He produced a PBS documentary, "There is a Bridge," and launched an art exhibit titled "Mapping Lives: The Art of Listening."

While in Wheeling, Verde also will meet with a group of WJU students in the Laut honors program who are studying memory this year and working with Faith in Action care receivers on oral history, Wojcik said. The moderator of the class is Jessica Wrobleski, an assistant professor of theology and religious studies at WJU.

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