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Taking the Lead: Supporting People Impacted by Dementia
January 18, 2018
Taking the Lead: Supporting People Impacted by Dementia

Starting a Memory Café: The JF&CS Massachusetts Memory Café Toolkit

Isolation… fear…embarrassment. These emotions are often experienced by people living with Alzheimer’s or a related disorder and their care partners. Memory cafés have been created to combat these feelings, and to promote new friendships and a sense of community.

A memory café is a social gathering for individuals living with dementia and their care partners. It provides a welcoming atmosphere and offers social connection, enlivening activities, and information to an often neglected community.

Last year, JF&CS helped support the spread of cafés with its introduction of the Massachusetts Memory Café Toolkit. Developed by Beth Soltzberg, Director of JF&CS Alzheimer’s/Related Disorders Family Support, with generous support from the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging (MCOA), this is the only memory café resource to include downloadable templates that can be edited and adapted for use by a new memory café and include sample flyers,planning worksheets, a guide for guest artists, registration and budget templates, and a tip sheet for volunteers.

"Our family, through the Lebovitz Family Charitable Trust, has sponsored both the leadership summits and the Memory Café. We feel so proud to support JF&CS and the initiatives they have created. They have truly been leaders in our community and pioneers in the Alzheimer’s area. They are really making a difference in the community and we’re thrilled with the results.It has been so gratifying to get feedback from the participants showing that JF&CS and the Alzheimer’s/Related Disorders Family Support team are really making an impact in this area." 
—Beth Backer, Trustee, Lebovitz Family Charitable Trust

Balancing Act: A Support Group for Adult Children of Parents with Dementia

“I fought it for so long. I didn't want to believe that my accomplished and competent mother had dementia,” says Heather. “As soon as I gave into it and opened myself to being educated and supported,I found another whole world out there, beginning with JF&CS.”

Heather is a participant in Balancing Act, the JF&CS monthly support and discussion group for adults who have a parent with dementia. Facilitated by experienced social workers, the group encourages participants to share wisdom and encouragement. “Just knowing that this group is there with information, support, and understanding is helpful. It's so nice to know that I'm not alone in this, nor is my mom,” adds Heather.

Did You Know? 

The first memory café was started in 1997 in Holland and the model spread around the world. By 2011, Massachusetts had its first café in Marlborough. The second memory café opened at JF&CS Headquarters in Waltham in 2014 and after receiving many inquiries and requests for assistance, JF&CS started the Percolator Network, a mutual assistance forum for those wanting to start or sustain a memory café.

The Percolator Network: Success through Collaboration

In 2014, JF&CS launched the Percolator Memory Café Network,which was started with generous funding from the Rita K. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation, to encourage the efficient and coordinated development of memory cafés throughout Massachusetts. Thanks to the Percolator, Massachusetts is now home to more than 70 memory cafés, one of the largest concentrations of cafés in the country. Leaders in other states are increasingly seeking to learn how our network has made this possible.

Without the Percolator, most memory cafés in Massachusetts simply would not exist, and its impact has been profound. As one guest shared, “This is the first positive activity we’ve had in months…we are ready to become café groupies!”

JF&CS Leads Dementia Friends Implementation in MA 

Dementia Friends is a global movement launched by the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK to change the way people think, act, and talk about dementia. Recently, Dementia Friends has come to the US, and JF&CS is leading its implementation in Massachusetts. We decided to take on this role because we know that reducing stigma and increasing public awareness can make communities more inclusive,respectful, and safe for people living with dementia and those who care about them. This is exactly what Dementia Friends aims to do.

As the Master Trainer for Massachusetts, JF&CS will train volunteer Champions to lead information sessions in their communities,organizations, and workplaces. These sessions teach participants key messages about dementia and help them explore how dementia affects daily life. Participants then turn their understanding into practical actions that can help those living with dementia in their communities. 

JF&CS is honored that the managing organizations of the Dementia Friendly Massachusetts Initiative support its role in spearheading this new program, and are assisting in its rollout across the state.

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