“Jane’s work with people with dementia is exceptional. She values each person and works tirelessly to discover who they are, what they love and how to connect with them.”
- Kerry Mills, I Care: A Handbook for Care Partners of People with Dementia
“We are truly blessed to have you, Jane, in western NC. You relate so well with the caregivers and are a joy to work with.”
- Carol McLimans, Land of Sky Family Caregiver Specialist, Asheville, NC
My Recent Story
A move to North Carolina from New York in 2010 brought me to Celo, then Asheville and an opportunity to work as a volunteer with a group of folks with dementia. One of our group members, a woman who had been diagnosed at 51 with Alzheimer’s disease inspired us to move to a more direct approach, to become a support group. We refocused and brought in new people who agreed that they too wanted to talk about living with the losses their diagnosis presented. Soon the Early Memory Loss Collaborative was who we knew ourselves to be and members from the support group began to share their stories in the community as a panel, named by them as “Please talk WITH us not ABOUT us”, at different meetings and conferences. Their story telling began to move hearts and change minds.
Through a grant from the North Carolina Office on Aging and Adult Services, we were able to train volunteers to launch Memory Cafes in Western North Carolina. We held the first Sacred Journey of Dementia conference in Asheville in April 2013. In June 2014 a second Sacred Journey of Dementia conference was held.
Inspired by the work of Alzheimer’s Scotland, we partnered with Asheville’s WomanSong to launch the Side-by-Side Singers, a weekly singing experience for those with dementia still living at home, along with their care partners. Singing connects us to ourselves in a special way and when we sing together we create community formed by the threads of memory evoked by the music.
There are many smaller collaborations unfolding as members of the support groups reach out to others with a diagnosis to befriend and support them in ways that only they can. We dropped ‘early’ from our name because we will be collaborating throughout the illness.
Advocacy runs thru all of this work and it has been a pleasure to join the faculty of UNC Asheville’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, teaching “The Heart and Mind of Dementia” where I endeavor to inspire the adult participants in my classes to become engaged in helping create a new culture around all things related to dementia. I am also privileged to work with The Council on Aging of Buncombe County, NC as a Dementia Consultant.
My Back Story
My lifework has been delightfully eclectic. I raised five wonderful children and before turning to professional work, shared a rich community life in NYC with other families having potlucks, running playgroups and occasional races in Central Park. We built a house on Martha’s Vineyard - with our high-energy children swinging on the scaffolding as I reached to paint ceilings.
At ABCNews, I worked for ten years as a technical manager successfully building teams to support the company’s growth and remote news broadcasts in an era when the union was highly contentious.
Later, along with a friend and the support of others, I created a community center in Nyack NY, ‘Nyack Center ~ a place for building community’ where our programs intentionally built bridges across many community divides.
While Executive Director for the Hudson Valley chapter of Make-A-Wish for seven years our chapter became known for its creative approach to wish granting because we tried hard to listen to what was not said and see what was not obvious when children spoke about their dreams.
Fund raising was a significant part of my work thru these years, and for a time I worked as the Executive Director for the foundation of a community hospital in northern Westchester, where again, the task was to find a way to bridge what the donors cared about with what our organization needed in order to build a committed donor base.
Because my dad began to show signs of having dementia, my interest in dementia was growing when I began to work at Columbia University Medical School’s Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain. Funds had to be raised to support the brilliant neuroscience concepts for faculty research start-up. Once the research was found to have promise, NIH funding could be applied for but all initial research had to be supported out of the Institute’s fund raising. This was a spectacular education. I was surrounded by extraordinary men and women, world leaders in research and it was my job to interpret their work to potential donors, to find an area of interest and connection for the donors to want to provide funding to the Taub Institute faculty in support of their research.
When I realized that I needed to be more on the front line with those living with dementia I moved to become the Exec Director of an assisted living residence for people who had dementia. It was a joy to go to work everyday where I learned so much from our delightful residents and the dedicated staff who worked from their hearts along with their minds providing personalized care that is rare in long term care residences.
Then, I moved to North Carolina.
"Having the privilege of Jane Sherman supervising the residence where my wife lived was an answer to my prayers. She devoted a special tailored love to each individual. There was no one in the world that I would have entrusted the well-being of my wife with more. She treated each person as family."
- David Mintz, husband of Rachel