By Toni Lynn Davis MHA, CNHA, FACHCA
President/Executive Director Green Hill Inc.
Whether one is newly diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, or if the symptoms have progressed to the middle stages, patients and caregivers have found respite in spending time in activity with people who face the same challenges as they do.
With cases of dementia diagnosis rising nation-wide sufferers and caregivers are faced with the progressive challenge of loosing cognitive ability and memory while planning for the inevitable that the future will bring. There are often years of living to do before that time comes and each patient along with their loved ones are encouraged to make the most of the time that they have together.
There was a very moving article in the Sunday May 1st New York Times that intimately followed the journey of Geri Taylor as she traversed her diagnosis and progression. Fraying At The Edges by N.R. Kleinfeld can be found at, here.
In the article Ms. Taylor spoke of the emotional challenges of her changing mental landscape and explained how she found solace and acceptance by attending programs at The Caringkind organization in NYC. Ms. Taylor joined Memory Works classes where she participated in music and memory games with other people going through what she was. She had fun.
Across the country a new kind of support group is springing up called Memory Cafes. It is a place where people with Alzheimer’s or dementia can go with their caregivers to socialize and spend time with others going through the same things. Just when one thinks they are given a diagnosis that will isolate them from their world there are solutions that enable them to have an expanded world with new friends, new activities, and information about tools and tricks one can employ to function more effectively.
“Dr. Bère Miesen, a Dutch psychologist, understood this need for social connection when he opened the first Memory Café in Holland. The idea is now gaining traction in the US, where close to 200 cafés have opened in cities and towns across the nation,” as noted on the website Alzheimersspeaks.com.
These cafés are popping up in restaurants, museums, libraries and community centers and the activities are directed by the desires and interests of the participants themselves. At Green Hill, in fall 2016, we will open our own version of a Memory Café that will be open to the whole community. There we can enjoy each other’s company in a safe and warm environment. We will have coffee and treats, share conversation, listen to music, do art and employ coping and care mechanisms to release stress. Guided by the Green Hill staff caregivers, family members can share care techniques and strategies for preparing one’s home for the stages of the disease and learn how to approach the financial ramifications of a long term illness.
It is important to choose to make the diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s not the end of one’s life, but the beginning of a new stage of life that can encompass joy, new experiences and new friends.
We will keep you posted on our progress for a Memory Café at Green Hill. To learn more about Memory Cafes, or to find one or start one in your community click here.