Molly Chambers, 80, a Greenfield resident, recently celebrated 30 years at LifePath. In honor of this impressive milestone, she agreed to answer some questions for The Good Life.
What brought you to LifePath and what was your previous work experience?
What brought me to LifePath was my interest in working with elders. I wanted to help support people so they could remain in their own homes safely and with dignity.
I spent fourteen years as a child and family therapist before I came to LifePath. I’ve also worked as a teacher, a community organizer, and a group worker at a settlement house. I’ve led support groups for single parents, and parents of children with special needs.
What is your current role, and how has it evolved over the years?
My current job title is Group Facilitator for a Dementia Caregivers’ Support Group. I lead support groups twice a month, and I research information about dementia and caregiving and share it with the group. I arrange for speakers to come to the group, and I find and review video resources for the group, leading discussions about their content. Twice a month I make supportive calls to offer group members assistance in caregiving and information about community resources.
During my time at LifePath, I’ve served as a case manager, an elder-at-risk worker/protective services worker, and a group leader.
What do you find the most gratifying about your work?
I love fostering an environment where people support each other. I love helping people with caregiving challenges, and providing them with the resources that help them stay healthily and happily at home, often keeping families intact. I really enjoy problem-solving, particularly where safety is an issue.
I think there is a gap in our society where community used to play a larger role in taking care of the most vulnerable amongst us. I feel proud to contribute to such an important kind of community-building.
Tell me some stories that stand out to you about ways in which you’ve helped people through your role at LifePath.
In lieu of a story, I’d love to share this poem I wrote, inspired by a visit to one of my clients:
Late Summer Memories
Dedicated to H.B.
She lives up on a hill.
Bales of newly mown hay line the road to her home.
Her house is the last one before the dirt road begins.
Old railroad ties form the steps to her home.
She sits in her favorite old chair
Facing into the living room with her treasures from the past.
Her colonial ancestor with his buttoned up vest, ponytail hairdo and short pants
watches over her from his gold-framed portrait.
Her curly white hair fans out on the back of the chair.
The old pink and white crocheted blanket
covers her stomach and legs, a handmade gift from a friend in the past.
She smiles and the twinkle in her eye
lets me know that she recognizes me this time.
She leans forward and reaches out her hand for mine.
We talk about how it is for her now.
So many of them she has known are gone now.
She names off old friends who are trapped like her.
They call each other on the phone.
Their hill-top houses, their swollen limbs and the miles of woods
keep them apart.
She leans forward and points her finger in my direction.
“You remember, you remember,” she says.
“I am sorry now that when I was younger
I did not understand
what it means to have someone really listen to you.”
97 years old is not an easy place to be.
Tell me a little about yourself.
I was born in Montclair, New Jersey, a suburban town close to New York City. I have lived all over the world: from Philadelphia to Mexico, California to the Virgin Islands, from East Harlem to Ohio.
I was raised in a multi-generational household. Because my mother cared for ill family members—both my grandmother and my father—it gave me a very early appreciation for what it meant to be a caregiver. It also reinforced the value of being able to stay at home and have the loving care of family around you towards the end of your life.
I have an LCSW and an MED in Counseling from UMass Amherst. I am also a lifelong activist, and continue to dedicate my time to causes that I believe in, particularly around racial and social justice, and issues that relate to the climate crisis. I’m also an avid gardener, a big reader, a swimmer, and a proud mother to two daughters and one son and am a grandmother and aunt as well.
What would you like people to know about your support group?
Caregivers in my group have family members with different kinds of dementia; they share stories of their challenges as well as their successes, no matter how big or small. Dementia can be a disease that erodes quality of life so completely, I think moments of relief are also important to celebrate and discuss.
My group is very close, with some members having participated for many years. We celebrate holidays together, and feel very invested in each other’s lives.
What else would you like to share?
I want to thank LifePath for supporting me personally over the years, and thank my group members for their courage in opening themselves up and sharing about their lives. Their openness is what makes this group work so powerful.