There are more than 250 million family caregivers worldwide, according to the International Alliance of Caregiver Organizations. They provide an estimated $470 billion in free labor each year in the U.S. alone — but often, with the great weight of caring for others comes the crushing sense of isolation and depression.

A beacon of hope is found at Yad Sarah through its program Yad Latomech, “A Helping Hand.”

Yad Latomech is a support and counseling service for family members who care for their loved ones.

Yad Sarah volunteer Ariela Hendler, who oversees the five Yad Latomech branches, says the support she provides most often is to caregivers of family members with Alzheimer’s.

“Alzheimer’s is hard because it’s not necessarily linearly degenerative. It can stop and progress,” says Ariela. “When someone calls my office I invite them into our branch to assess and determine if they need group or 1-on-1 support. We try to find the right fit, because family caregivers can benefit from emotional, social and practical support.”

A beacon of hope is found at Yad Sarah through its program Yad Latomech, "A Helping Hand."

One caregiver who appreciates theprogram is Michelle Karmazin-Comet, a long  time Yad Sarah client, who has borrowed equipment in the past for her father-in-law and nephew. Now, Michelle’s husband is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and she has turned to Yad Sarah’s Yad Latomech to support her own mental and emotional health.

Michelle attends support groups for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s run by award-winning geriatric social worker Leah Abromowitz. “Yad Sarah has saved my life,” Michelle says, with tears in her eyes.

She also borrows and purchases equipment for her husband. “Whenever I’ve needed equipment Yad Sarah has come through — like a belt for the wheelchair so when my husband is eating, he’s safely strapped in. The staff there is phenomenal and so accommodating.”

The staff there is phenomenal and so accommodating.

Sheila Zimels, whose husband has been diagnosed with dementia, now feels the same way Michelle does about Yad Latomech — but she started out as a strong skeptic.

“I have a friend whose husband also had dementia and she told me about the group support services.

She said she’d never miss a session — she’d go even in the sleet and rain! I told her it’s not for me. But she insisted, so I tried…. And I have to say, when you’re with other like-minded people in similar situations, it feels natural. Just hearing other people talk about similar situations that you’re dealing with is not only informative, but soothing. Also, the women who run the support group are incredibly caring, brilliant moderators.”

Ariela says this is exactly the goal.

“I’ve been volunteering for Yad Sarah 15 years,” says Ariela. “Volunteering at Yad Latomech gives me a sense of accomplishment. I know how hard it is because my brother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 62.”

“Many caregivers find it hard to deal with the repetition that comes with Alzheimer’s — for example, asking over and over if it’s Shabbat on Saturday. I validate that challenge and I give them tips on handling their anger. I also remind them to be glad that their brains are functioning, and that of course the patient isn’t doing it on purpose. I feel that I help people and it’s very satisfying.”

Right now, Yad Sarah offers Yad Latomech services in Jerusalem, Raanana, Rishon Letzion, Beersheva, and Maale Adumim, and the organization wants to expand.

When we feel unsteady, we lean on family. Yad Sarah is making sure families are supported, too.

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