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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Boston Globe Health and Science staff:
Karen Weintraub, Deputy Health and Science Editor, and Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor.
Short White Coat blogger Ishani Ganguli
Short White Coat blogger Jennifer Srygley
Friday, November 2, 2007
Compassionate caregiver connects with patients and families
Barbara Moscowitz (left) thinks older adults are overlooked by people who can't see past their walkers and hearing aids, their illnesses and infirmities, to the human beings inside.
"I want to live in a universe that will see me not as a long list of chronic diseases but as an individual first who might have to cope with illness," Moscowitz, 54, said in an interview.
For her work at Massachusetts General Hospital with people with Alzheimer's and their families, she received the Kenneth B. Schwartz Center's Compassionate Caregiver of the Year Award last night at a dinner attended by 1,700 people. The honor is named for the Boston lawyer who, while being treated for the lung cancer he would die of, wrote movingly in the Boston Globe magazine about how his caregivers' human touch "made the unbearable bearable."
Coordinator of geriatric social work at Mass. General, Moscowitz focuses on the needs of families confronting their loved ones' diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease.
"So many families of Alzheimer's patients need so much support and guidance. It's like learning a new language," she said. "It just disturbs me greatly that a lot of people are given a diagnosis and then a web site or telephone number and told to go off and figure it out."
Moscowitz gave unwavering assistance to Kasey Kaufman when her mother was slipping away into the fog of dementia, the former CBS4 reporter said in a letter nominating Moscowitz for the Schwartz award.
"I like to say that Barbara saved our lives but that would be telling only part of the story," she wrote. "Barbara helped us to understand my mom's illness."
Kaufman's mother called Moscowitz "that tiny gal with the big heart," Kaufman's letter said.
Patricia Bresky, a psychologist in California, said in her first phone conversation with Moscowitz, she grasped not only her father's medical condition but also the family dynamics.
"For the first time since the onset of my father's symptoms two years before, I felt the ground beneath me," Bresky said in a letter to the Schwartz Center.
Moscowitz said she values the Schwartz Center's work to keep human connections alive in healthcare that can be hurried.
"They are the penicillin for what ails medicine now," she said.