Staff Spotlight

Meet Jan Higman:                  

Executive Director

Dementia Support Northwest

                Formerly known as
the Alzheimer Society of Washington

 

 

 

 

How long have you worked here?  “A little over 2 years.”

What made you want to work here?  “That story starts about 46 years ago. I’m named after my Grandmother who came to Germany to help my mom when she was pregnant with me. She came over in January; I wasn’t born until March 27th. The doctors were slightly off on their due date! My dad suggested they name me after her for her staying and being there.  That created a bond between us; I’m the only one who she shared her secret recipes with.  She had Vascular Dementia as a result of multiple strokes.  She loved going to church, and I would come over when she couldn’t go anymore, I would read passages from psalms to her. In the Garden was her favorite hymn, she sang it to me all the time as a little girl so I would sing that to her, it brought her comfort and joy. It made me want to help others on their dementia journey and try to help them find their peace and joy.”

What is one of the most fulfilling things about working here?  “Just one? I would say I think one of my favorite things is watching someone who comes to one of our early memory loss classes’ blossom as a result from the group. Helping them find that joy in life again. Very simply, just making a difference in the lives of people who really need it. They really need it.”

Can you think of one story that has had a big impact on you?  “Yes actually. Frank, Josselyn’s husband. I remember I came here for the open house, that’s when I was being introduced as the new ED (Executive Director), it was a few days before I actually started. I was going to meet a ton of people and I was pretty nervous.  He was stationed in Germany, so he was interested in talking to me because I was born there. We had a long conversation; he just had a way of talking to people and calming them down. I always remembered that. So when he started coming to our groups he did the same thing for the group, he was very well loved and calming to everyone. When he passed away it was devastating for all of us here in the office. But I’ll never forget that, he made my very first time with the organization very special.”

Do you have any frustrations within your job?  “I would say that my frustrations are not being able to do everything that our caregivers and our people need from us. That’s a frustration.”

Can you explain the name change a little?  “So, we often get confused for a local chapter or a statewide organization and also get confused with the Association, so to eliminate some of that confusion we wanted to change our name.  We decided on a name that is more inclusive because we serve all dementias not just Alzheimer’s, and also to convey what we really do here. Where some organizations are focused a lot on raising money for research, we help support people who are going through the journey right now. We are still incorporated as the Alzheimer Society of Washington (ASW) and will continue to be so, but we will be doing business as Dementia Support Northwest (DSNW).”

What are the organization’s needs right now?  “We need facilitators so we can continue to add support groups as the ones we currently have grow too large. That’s our biggest need. And obviously funds to continue to be able to offer our groups/programs for free or minimal costs. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which means we rely on donations, grants, and community support.”

How would someone go about becoming a facilitator?  “Last year we developed a community facilitator program, so they would contact the office so we can coordinate a date to conduct the training. It is a time commitment, but then they would be able to facilitate groups at their church, in their community, while under the guidance of Dementia Support Northwest.”

Are there future goals for the organization?  “Short term- we would like to be able to extend more of our services into Skagit County, and again expand the support groups we have here in Whatcom County already.  Some are beginning to grow quite large so we would like to be able to have more in more communities. Long term goals would be to open a satellite office in Skagit County and also acquire grants and funding to be able to purchase or build a permanent residence for Dementia Support Northwest in Bellingham”

What message would you like to get out about dementia?  “Dementia is a long, stressful journey; depending on what type you have you can live anywhere from 7 to 20 years after diagnosis. Most people do not think of dementia as a chronic and terminal illness, it is both.  However, upon diagnosis there is still in many cases a long life to live and you can still find joy and meaning and hope in that life.”

 

For more information about our staff and what we do:

Visit our website at http://alzsociety.org

Or contact us at

Email: [email protected]

Office: 360.671.3316

1301 Fraser Ave Suite A-1

Bellingham, WA 98229

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