In October 2018, my wife and I, along with our children attended an art reception sponsored by Artz Philadelphia in which all art on exhibit was made by individuals with dementia living in nursing homes throughout the Philadelphia area. It was a moving experience for my family and I to listen to those with Alzheimer’s and related dementia explain their artwork. Importantly, it was refreshing to view the individual as an artist, as opposed to an individual with dementia.

Artz Philadelphia is a nonprofit existing “to provide opportunities for self-expression and for the rebuilding of self-esteem and dignity to people with dementia and those who care for them.” They achieve this mission through evidence-based programs that connect people living with dementia and their care partners with artists, cultural organizations, and each other.

In other words, instead of medicalizing Alzheimer’s disease, Artz Philadelphia helps to approach Alzheimer’s and related dementia in a different manner. The non-profit approaches dementia in an open, creative, and even playful manner.

As the recent Washington Post article, “Changing ‘the tragedy narrative’: Why a growing camp is promoting a more joyful approach to Alzheimer’s” states, “Dementia is enormously painful,” said Mary Fridley, co-creator of a workshop called ‘The Joy of Dementia,’ but she added, “I truly believe it is an opportunity, if people so choose, to be improvisational, to be silly, to play, to free ourselves from the constraints of truth and knowing and assumptions.”

I have been a member of the Board of Directors of several nonprofit organizations, including Twilight Wish Foundation and currently, Artz Philadelphia. Twilight Wish Foundation’s mission is to “make the world a nicer place to age, one Twilight Wish at a time. A Twilight Wish granted recognizes seniors for all that they have done throughout their lives and shows them they are appreciated and of value to society.”

I have been and continue to be a member of the Board of Directors of these organizations. I enjoy my involvement with these non-profits because it is fun. It is not about death and dying. It is about living life to your fullest potential.

Our 2019 Elder Care Professional Symposium to be held on April 11, 2019, “Person Centered Elder Care: Transitioning Theories Into Practice”, will be devoted to discussing the cognitive and social strengths of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia though our keynote speaker, Dr. Steven Sabat, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Georgetown University. You can learn more about the Symposium including registering at https://rothkofflaw.com/symposium/.

The Symposium will include an “Advocates Alley” where both the Twilight Wish Foundation and Artz Philadelphia, among other nonprofits, will be available to discuss the services they offer seniors.

As the Washington Post article stated, “Alzheimer’s can be a liberating event. There is no way to dismiss the pain and suffering that comes from dementia, but to understand that a lot of that pain and suffering comes from the response.”  

About Jerry

Jerold E. Rothkoff, a practicing New Jersey and Pennsylvania attorney, is the Principal of the Rothkoff Law Group, an elder care law firm. Jerry dedicates his practice to serving clients in the areas of life care planning, long-term care planning, Medicaid & VA benefits, and advocacy for the elderly and disabled. He is past President of the NJ Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, former chair of the elder law section of the NJ State Bar Association, and past President of the Life Care Planning Law Firm Association. Jerry continues to be an outspoken advocate for the rights of the elderly and disabled. He writes for and gives presentations regularly to attorneys and other professionals about legal issues related to seniors and those with disabilities. Jerry’s community activities include the Twilight Wish Foundation, the Delaware Valley Stroke Council, the Alzheimer’s Association, as well as numerous other advocacy groups. When not in the office, Jerry spends time with his wife, Erica, and their five children, eighteen-year old identical twin girls, Liza and Julia, fifteen-year old fraternal twin boys, Evan and Gregory, and six-year old Aitan.

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