06July

Healing the Spirit, Healing the Body

Healing the Spirit, Healing the Body

By July 2015, Amy Fergusson-Williams knew she needed help. Her husband Rodney had been forgetting things and at times was not acting like himself. Before she knew it, Amy had gone from a household partner and wife to a full-time caregiver.

“I was feeling hopeless and overwhelmed, like I couldn’t catch up,” said Amy. “I didn’t know where to go or what to do.”
Married for 54 years, Amy never thought she would need assistance. Born in Jamaica, she met Rodney, who hails from Sierra Leone, at a wedding in England. She was studying in Leeds, he in Scotland. The two enjoyed successful careers that took them to several countries before settling in the United States in 1982.

“I was superwoman,” she said. But in January 2002, she got sick and spent three months in the hospital. Already diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, Amy contracted strep throat, which resulted in septicemia. Her recovery was slow, and she had to learn to walk again. Things spiraled downward from there.

By 2015, Amy was finding it hard to manage. Then a friend mentioned JF&CS’ Caregiver Support Services, a program that provides customized case management for people caring for older adults in their families. Services include needs assessments, financial help, food from the JF&CS Food Pantry, education and resources, and emotional support.

“Initially, Amy did not self-identify as a caregiver,” said Caylin Broome, her case manager in JF&CS’ Aviv Older Adult Services. “She gradually seemed to realize that’s what she was doing. She is very selfless, and I often had to prompt her to think not just about Rodney’s needs but also her own and how caring for him had begun to affect her.” 

Through the caregivers program, Amy learned about JF&CS’ Health Power Initiative (HPI), an innovative best-practices approach to promoting improved health and nutrition, and a better quality of life for high-risk and vulnerable populations. Funded by United Way, HPI provides education to help clients and caregivers improve their physical health and well-being. Amy and Rodney attended a workshop on eating healthfully on a budget, and now Amy participates regularly in the program.

“We saw both of them but really worked with Amy, focusing on her own health and wellness,” said Belinda Ossip, the holistic health practitioner who heads up HPI.

HPI changed how Amy and Rodney ate and took care of themselves. They learned about nutrition, how to prepare healthier meals and wholesome habits overall. She loves to cook again and has less stress and depression. And, she rarely has to use the cane she needed when she first came in.

“It was a complete spiritual uplifting for me, both therapeutic and healing,” she said. “I’m now better able to cope with caregiver issues. I feel more whole.”

She accepts there always will be challenges but feels HPI has equipped her to make better health choices.

Additionally, Amy and Rodney have started receiving care from JF&CS’ Ben Massell Dental Clinic, which provides free comprehensive oral health services to those who would not have access to it otherwise.

“When you’re on a limited budget, you don’t plan for the expense of dental care,” she said. “The clinic was a God-send.”

For information about these programs, visit ytfl.org/caregivers, ytfl.org/HPI and benmasselldentalclinic.org.

Written by Sheri Panovka, Posted in Aviv Older Adult Services

About the Author

Sheri Panovka

Sheri Panovka

Sheri Panovka is JF&CS' Marketing Communications Coordinator. As one of JF&CS' principal writers, writes for the printed publications, enewsletters, synagogue bulletins, website and many of our events.