Coffee shops and cafés are great gathering places to unwind and catch up with friends. In fact, they're usually less about coffee than conversation and community. And now, a certain type of café is providing a unique atmosphere and sense of community for both people with dementia and their caregivers.
"One of greatest challenges for caregivers of someone living with dementia is finding time for social experiences for themselves and their loved one," says Katie, National Director of Life Enrichment for The Goodman Group. "The memory café offers an opportunity to share the journey with others, make new friendships, and create collaborative relationships."
Organizations worldwide are launching these memory cafés as a way for people with memory loss and their caregivers to spend quality time together.
What is a Memory Café?
A memory café is more of a traveling event than a place because it can occur at any warm and welcoming location you can think of — a coffee house, community center, gallery, library, museum, or conference room. Memory cafés typically occur on a weekly or monthly basis. Each setting will provide a unique feeling to the café experience.
The cafés are designed to allow you and your loved one to participate in activities together such as socializing with other attendees, listening to music, playing games, or crafting, all in a safe environment. There can even be snacks and beverages. Volunteers with experience and training in dementia run each café, and there is usually a community nurse on call in case you have questions or concerns.
The concept began in 1997, when Dr. Bere Miesen, a Dutch psychiatrist, launched the first Alzheimer’s Café in The Netherlands. The idea quickly spread throughout Europe, eventually making its way to Ireland, England, and finally, Australia and the United States.
Not only are these cafés providing a fun and supportive environment to connect with people if you or your loved one has memory loss, but it’s striving to end the stigma of such illnesses. It’s a step toward creating a dementia-friendly community.
Benefits of a Memory Café
You’re in good company at a memory café. Everyone there understands what you’re going through. It’s a great way to socialize and it reassures you that you’re not in this alone.
Relax, unwind, and have some fun! There’s something for caregivers and their loved ones at a memory café — stimulating activities will keep your loved one from becoming bored and help you relax.
Need advice? Feel free to voice any issues or concerns you have been experiencing while navigating the road of memory loss care. Someone else may have experienced a similar situation and have tips on how to cope. This is your network of like-minded friends. Get to know one another.