If your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s of some other dementia or memory-related illness, you know how devastating and frightening it can be—for everyone. The uncertainty can—at times—be both difficult and challenging. It can also be embarrassing also if, for example, you take your family member some place in public and they have an outburst, or otherwise display inappropriate behavior. No one else understands what’s happening, but you want to shrink away.
That’s where Memory Cafés come in.
Memory Cafés are gathering places where people with Alzheimer’s or a related illness or disease can go with their senior care partners, and other family and friends to socialize and have fun with other people who are going through the exact same thing. People are able to relax and be themselves, knowing there will be no judgment; only understanding.
The Cafés provide a great opportunity for lively discussions, information gathering, refreshments, camaraderie, and lots of creative fun thrown in. And, for people in early stages of dementia, there may even be an occasional field trip to a museum, arts/crafts show, music recital, or the like.
Some are built around a concept like the arts, or doing a charitable act. Each location around the country is different; but all are grass roots efforts to assist the person with dementia, their caregiver and loved ones to have a good day.
They also allow people to build a support network for future needs and gives people who otherwise may be isolated at home, a chance to get out amongst others. Some may even provide speakers or other educational resources for caregivers.
Memory Cafés got their start in Holland in 1997, with the first one being started by Dutch psychologist, Dr. Bère Miesen.
Research in the UK and the Netherlands shows that Memory Café participation reduces social isolation, provides enjoyable interaction without stigma, acts as an entry point for needed resources, and offers access to information. The first U.S.-based Memory Café began in Santa Fe, NM in 2008. Since that time, experts estimate that approximately 200 cafes are now in existence in the U.S., and they slowly continue to grow as people become more familiar with them and the benefits they provide.
Memory Cafés are typically housed in places like libraries, senior centers, adult daycares, churches, hospitals, or museums. They are “staffed” by volunteers, and people meet, on average, for 90 minutes to two hours one or two times each month.
The unique thing about these locations, is they allow people and their caregivers, family and friends, the chance to do what they are able to do together, rather than focusing on the things they can’t any longer do because of their disease. They help restore some sense of normalcy to lives that have been turned upside down and become anything but normal because of the disease.
To learn more or find a Memory Café near you, contact the Alzheimer’s Association at 1.800.272.3900 .