One of the newest trends popping up in cities all over is a wonderful and amazing concept called Memory Cafés. They are also sometimes called Alzheimer’s Cafés but this often makes people take a negative view or feel as though only those with Alzheimer’s can visit; which is not true. These quaint places focus on the increasing number of people who are dealing with family members who suffer from dementia. Memory Cafés are little cafés where everything is focused on making it a place to enjoy food, drink, or desserts in an atmosphere that is both safe and accepting of those who have dementia. Everyone there is in the same position, dealing with a loved one who is with them that has dementia and all of its surprises. There is no shame or embarrassment if you are with someone who asks the same questions repeatedly and there is nobody there who doesn’t understand what you, as a caregiver, are going through.
These Memory Cafés are growing in popularity because they not only offer a means of socialization to those who have dementia but also to for those that are with them on a regular basis. Some cafes have support groups that meet at certain times while others may decide to focus on simply the social concept of feeling comfortable being “out in public” with those you love, despite their dementia. Most caregivers of those who suffer from dementia will say that after an extended period of time they feel lost, alone and very secluded from the world. Memory Cafés are created to bring “life” back into the world of both the caregiver and the person who has dementia.
Memory Cafés are an informal place to gather for an array of entertainment; including games and sometimes live music. I know that many times as I work with patients with dementia I will ask their caregivers (usually spouses or children) if they are getting out and enjoying life. The first and most common reaction is a chuckle and a bit of a sarcastic “sure, all the time.” The reality is, as a caregiver it is just as important for YOU to have quality of life as it is your loved one. These wonderful Memory Cafés give you options to have a little touch of normality in your life without the fear of outbreaks and embarrassing moments that may accompany the dementia.
Depending upon the Memory Café some even have scheduled outings and trips that you can take with your loved one to that are created with your needs in mind. They are somewhat limited time wise and always well thought out as to where they are held and what they focus on. Many of these cafés are started by or have the help of a professional who focuses on dementia and diseases that may cause dementia. Although they are not a medical advice center, they may provide seminars that are of great use to patients with dementia and their families/caregivers. Each Café presents its own type of atmosphere and projects that they find are helpful to their specific customers. Basically it’s not a place that focuses on the dementia but a place that focuses on having a quality of life that most take for granted. The most wonderful part of this new trend is that, just like their clients, each café is different in its own way. The focus is on the clients and not their dementia. It’s a place to go where you and your loved one aren’t looked at differently. It’s a place to go where you can enjoy games, conversation, and an atmosphere that has only been available to most of the standard population and not geared for those with dementia and their families.
Because this idea is so new and innovative the number of Memory Cafés is very limited. There are currently cafés in MD, VA, DC, FL, MA with many more planned for other areas. However, there is also a lot of help out there for anyone who is interested in opening their own Memory Café. The dementia advocacy group Alzheimer’s Speaks offers a group of mentors for those interested in opening their own Memory Café that can be reached here. Please don’t hesitate if you think you would enjoy utilizing this amazing idea as your way to the future. There is not only money there to make but a cause to truly help! You don’t necessarily need to buy or rent a building as often churches, local senior centers, libraries, and even cafés that are already in business may allow you to meet for the Memory Café regularly. Generally meetings for the Memory Cafés will last 1 ½ to 2 hours and meet monthly or sometimes twice a month.
Remember if you have a loved one, physical therapy is a very important part of getting a grasp on dementia. PT helps to keep your loved one physically healthy and maintain quality of life. You can take away many aspects of these Memory Cafés and apply them at home or within your family also. Take the time to invite those who understand dementia and what may happen while they visit and create an afternoon of simple tea and cookies (all store bought is fine) or have a game day that can include everyone with the focus on fun, not winning. Adjust games to fit your loved one’s abilities and keep the game time short enough that they don’t get bored. Create a memory box with them, placing items inside that make them smile and remember wonderful times. Most of all remember that both of you deserve to have a high quality of life. Whether you visit a Memory Café, create your own Memory Café with friends and family, or simply make sure your loved one is physically strong & healthy with physical therapy at home with GO Physical Therapy & Wellness it’s time to start living again!
Dedicated To Your Health & Well-being (and safety),