On July 1, 2018, I retired from my role as President and CEO of CaringKind. It has been my privilege to serve you for the past 14 years.
I am deeply indebted to our talented, hard-working staff, now led by our new CEO, Jed A. Levine. Jed has been my partner since I walked through the door in March of 2004. I am confident that, under his leadership, CaringKind will continue to grow and prosper.
Thinking back to when I started, I was a neophyte in the fields of aging, Alzheimer’s research, and dementia care. There was so much I didn’t know. But thanks to staff and Board members, community partners, elected officials, clinicians and research scientists who gave so generously of their time and expertise, I learned fast. But something was missing until two things happened to fill in the gaps.
The first took place on a hot, summer night at a Tanglewood concert. My husband and I found our spot on the lawn, but when I realized I had left something in the car, I walked back to the parking lot. By the time I returned to the lawn, the concert had started and it was pitch black. I was completely lost. Within minutes, I was disoriented, scared, frustrated, and anxious. Just as another family took pity on me and invited me to share their picnic, I saw a familiar silhouette in the shadows, recognized my husband and we reconnected.
My reaction to the experience was unexpected. But, it was exactly what we hear from our clients as their world becomes an unstable, unsettled, and frightening place. My experience gave me a new appreciation for what people with dementia are up against.
My second experience came a few months later at our annual Walk in Riverside Park – my first. Throughout the morning, as Jed introduced me to our families, I was thanked. I was hugged. I was kissed. I was even blessed. Everyone wanted me to know how grateful they were to CaringKind. I heard story after story of families in crisis who told me that they no longer felt alone and that CaringKind had, literally, saved their lives. Leaving the walk that day, I understood the real impact that CaringKind makes on the lives of families in crisis.
This lesson was reinforced in 2011 when my mother, who had dementia, came home to New York and, ironically, I became my own client. CaringKind’s social workers were a godsend for me as they are for those we serve.
Today, fully informed and concerned about the rapidly growing population of aging Americans, I am struck by the absence of political focus on our issues and needs. After all, isn’t aging something we all have in common? No matter how much we exercise, how well we eat, or how good our medical care, we will grow old. No matter our religion, race, culture, or economic status, if we are lucky, we will grow old. And when we do, our families will need precisely the programs and services that CaringKind provides.
Although I am stepping down as CEO after more than 14 years, I am staying on to contribute to the life-saving work we do every day. I hope that as more and more New Yorkers take advantage of CaringKind’s programs, and as the word spreads, our community will take up these issues and work with us to ensure we have resources to grow. We must continue to advocate for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who have dementia or who are caring for someone who does.
I know my time here has made a difference. I could not ask for more and I thank each of you for making it possible.