Everyone knows the great tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease is the way it steals memories from its victims and turns them into completely different people. However, fewer people are aware of the lesser tragedy of the disease, which is that Alzheimer’s patients and their families and caregivers often suffer from isolation from other people, particularly from other people who are going through similar circumstances. This isolation can cause stress, loneliness, depression, and health problems in people whose lives are affected by Alzheimer’s.
We may not have a cure for Alzheimer’s disease yet, but we do have some ways to combat issues like stress and loneliness that come along with it. And a few organizations are finally realizing how big these problems are and doing something to fix them and improve the lives of people with Alzheimer’s and those closest to them.
Neighborhood Memory Cafe is one way people who have been touched by Alzheimer’s are coming together to combat social issues related to the disease. The program, run by Hope Matters in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, invites families and caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients to “come as you are” to events where they can enjoy refreshments, socialize, destress, and refuel with newfound hope.
The events, which are held in cafes or care homes, are free and organized by volunteers so families and caregivers don’t have to worry about a thing. Neighborhood Memory Cafe is also completely funded by sponsors and donations, and that includes the food, visiting artists, crafts, and any other related costs.
And the artists, musicians, and other people who entertain at the cafe events also get something special out of the experience. “I just love the energy of the memory cafe participants! I am so thankful you invited me to share my music,” says flutist Terrie D. Howze.
The “cafes” are held monthly at five different locations around the city so that everyone in the area who wants to join a community of people going through the same thing has the opportunity.
How cool is this idea? Do you wish you had a community you could share your experiences with as an Alzheimer’s caregiver or family member?
We hope the Neighborhood Memory Cafe will inspire other communities around the globe to adopt similar programs to bring together people who are all going through similarly difficult situations. We can bring so much hope and love to each other if we can just get our hands on the right opportunities to reach out to one another!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?