Memory Cafés: A Welcoming Space for People with Dementia
Posted by Beth Soltzberg
Almost a year ago, JF&CS started the second memory café in Massachusetts. A memory café is a welcoming, social gathering for people with dementia and their care partners.
Memory cafés have spread across Europe and recently across the US. Each café looks different. They meet in coffee shops, museums, social service agencies, houses of worship, and libraries. Their common threads are a focus on the enduring personhood of those with dementia rather than on the disease and a chance for those with dementia and their care partners to enjoy socializing without worry of stigma or judgment. Memory cafés help keep the growing number of families affected by dementia woven into the fabric of community life.
A large number of café “regulars” now value the JF&CS Memory Café as a highlight of their month. But more memory cafés are needed across our state. Each should be unique and tailored to the needs and style of its neighborhood.
With this aim, JF&CS has launched the memory café Percolator network. The “Percolator” network meets quarterly to enable those starting or running memory cafés to share resources and ideas.
The Percolator’s Café Directory shows the broad range of café pioneers in our region. Memory cafés are currently running in a home in Marlborough that during the week hosts a social day program, the Westwood Library, housing for the elderly in Framingham, and various sites in Brookline.
Helping people find cafés to attend is one of the Percolator’s goals. "Having an organized network and a directory makes it much easier for Alzheimer’s Association helpline staff to refer people to local memory cafes," says Bonnie Bigalke, Care Consultant at the Alzheimer’s Association of MA/NH. We hope that in the next year, many more memory cafés will start and thrive.
I recently received an e-mail from a woman who regularly attends the JF&CS Memory Café with her husband who has dementia. She and her husband had become very isolated because it was hard for him to do the things he used to do and old friends drifted away. Coming to the JF&CS Memory Café was a breakthrough; the first new activity that he enjoyed and an opportunity for her to get out and have fun with her husband and others who “get it.” Having learned about another café through the directory, they now attend both.
“I hope there will be more cafés in the new year,” she wrote. “I am ready to become a café groupie.”
Would you like to attend or start a memory café? Please contact Beth Soltzberg at email@example.com or 781-693-5628 for more information about memory cafes or the Percolator network.
Beth Soltzberg, LCSW, MBA, manages the Alzheimer’s/Related Disorders Family Support program, and works as a coordinator with the Parkinson’s Family Support Program. These programs of Jewish Family & Children’s Service encompass support, education, and the arts. Beth’s work includes facilitating caregiver support and education groups, and designing new offerings for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Beth earned her MSW and MBA from the University of Chicago and a certificate in end-of-life care from the Smith College School of Social Work. She holds an advanced credential in hospice and palliative care social work.