28 THE QUEENS COURIER • HEALTH • APRIL 4, 2019 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Baby dolls bring joy to residents at Parker Jewish Institute’s Memory Care Unit
A caring daughter’s love is bringing
comfort and joy to her mom and fellow
residents at Parker Jewish Institute.
Th e story began when Cassandra
Ottaviano, 34, of Bellmore, NY, visited
her mother “Marge” (Margaret) Karris
in early February 2019. Marge, at 68
years old, was admitted to Parker in
August 2018 with a diagnosis of early
onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Cassandra had been in touch with
Parker’s Caregiver Support Initiative,
while her mother lived alone with home
care in a Suff olk apartment. Marge
participated in their Caregiver Respite
Day Program for a short while. But at
some point, Marge needed placement.
Cassandra was told about options, given
emotional support, counseling and suggestions
about long term care, and ultimately
support through the transition of
placing her mother.
During her February visit, Cassandra
had her 3-year old Mathew give a baby
doll to Marge. But aft er returning from
lunch, Marge’s doll was gone, and another
resident was found cradling the doll,
like it was her own baby.
“I didn’t have the heart to take that
doll away and give it back to my Mom,”
Cassandra said. Th at’s when she got
the idea to collect dolls for residents on
Parker’s 8th fl oor Memory Care Unit.
Cassandra’s brother Peter helped with
the fundraising drive. She posted an
appeal on her Facebook page, on the Long
Island Preschool and Elementary Moms
Group page, and a few Bellmore Civic
pages. Cassandra called it her Dolls for
Alzheimer’s Valentine’s Day Fundraiser.
“It would mean so much if you could
show your support and consider donating
a new doll to residents like my Mom,
who have Alzheimer’s. Th ere are dozens
of residents who could benefi t from your
generosity,” her appeal stated.
When Cassandra visited Parker on Feb.
23, she brought her baby dolls and with
staff approval, asked several residents if
they’d like one.
“Th eir reactions brought tears of joy
to my eyes,” Cassandra said. “Several
residents began cradling the life-sized
dolls, talking to them and making cooing
sounds, as if they were their own
babies. We saw a lot of smiles that day,”
“We commend eff orts like Cassandra’s.
Th erapy dolls are a helpful, non-pharmaceutical
way to calm and soothe seniors
with Alzheimer’s and other dementias,”
according to Michael N. Rosenblut,
Parker’s President and CEO. “Gift ing
a soft , life-sized baby doll to some residents
in our Memory Care Unit, can
bring them back to a time in their lives
when they had a sense of purpose, joy
Aft er giving out dolls at Parker,
Cassandra, husband Phil and her brother
Peter, distributed the rest at local nursing
homes. Th ey plan another drive for
Mother’s Day in the spring.
If you’d like to donate, they need new and
ethnically diverse dolls. Please contact her
ASAP at: Cassandra.Karris@gmail.com.
Photo courtesy of Parker Jewish Institute
Some of the baby dolls received by residents at Parker Jewish Institute’s Memory Care Unit.
How genetic testing may help to identify your risk for a rare disease
Th ere is no doubt that interest in genetics
has exploded in recent years. In fact,
genealogy has grown dramatically to
become the second most popular hobby
in the United States and the second-most
popular internet surfi ng topic.
At the same time, advances in our
understanding of genetics are broadening
our understanding of the role genes
play in our overall health and the development
of many diseases. Th is is especially
signifi cant for people with inherited
conditions, such as hereditary transthyretin
mediated (hATTR) amyloidosis.
Aff ecting approximately 50,000 people
worldwide, hATTR amyloidosis is a
life-threatening disease that can impact
multiple parts of the body, including the
nerves, heart and digestive system.
hATTR amyloidosis is passed down
from parent to child in an autosomal
dominant fashion, meaning a person only
needs to inherit one copy of the aff ected
gene from one parent in order to develop
the condition. However, inheriting
the TTR gene with a mutation does not
necessarily mean that you will develop
hATTR amyloidosis. Despite its prevalence
across generations and the appearance
of symptoms, some families may be
unaware of their family history or that
they are at risk for the condition.
Symptoms of hATTR amyloidosis can
vary widely from person to person, but
oft en include weakness, numbness and
tingling in the hands and feet, burning
pain, dizziness, shortness of breath and
digestive issues. Misdiagnosis is common
with hATTR amyloidosis because
the symptoms can resemble those of other
more common conditions including carpal
tunnel syndrome, diabetic neuropathy
and hypertensive heart disease.
Th is is where genetic testing can help.
“Making the decision to undergo genetic
testing for serious conditions like
hATTR amyloidosis is not easy, especially
when it can have implications for your
entire family,” said Emily Brown, a genetic
counselor. “Knowing you are at risk can
allow you to recognize symptoms faster,
avoid misdiagnoses and identify a path
forward with your doctor.”
Genetic counselors can also help to
familiarize you with the process of genetic
testing and provide support due to the
potential implications if you test positive.
Th ere are other resources available.
Companies like Alnylam Pharmaceuticals
have made genetic testing and counseling
options available to help people make
informed decisions about their health.
Th rough Alnylam Act(R), Alnylam sponsors
third-party genetic testing and counseling
for individuals who may be carrying
a gene mutation known to be associated
with hATTR amyloidosis at no charge.
For more information about the program,
Further, if you or someone in your family
experience symptoms consistent with
those of hATTR amyloidosis, talk to your
doctor and visit Alnylam’s hATTRBridge.
com for more information and additional