Dec 7, 2012

Memory Cafes are a Wonderful Thing for Alzheimer’s Patients and Caregivers

Memory Cafes are truly a wonderful thing for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. Memory Cafes began in the Netherlands in 1997. The idea was the brainstorm of Bere Miesen, a Dutch psychiatrist.

By Max Wallack
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Memory Cafes are a Wonderful Thing for Alzheimer’s  Patients and Caregivers
Miesen wrote:

“The Alzheimer’s café is an informal way to make contact with each other, to receive a consultation and feel at home. In the Netherlands, patients feel they have a place to just be. This way the patient and their family don’t have to deny or avoid the illness.”

By the year 2000, Dr. Miesen’s original café was attended by between 100 and 150 people each month. By that time, there were already 10 Memory Cafes in Holland. One caregiver at these early cafes commented,

“It is very difficult for carers to get time for themselves, recharge their batteries or receive respite support. The isolation they experience is sometimes unbearable.”

In November 2000, the first Memory Café opened in the United Kingdom. Today, most communities in Great Britain have one or two Memory Café meetings every month.

John and Susan McFadden from Wisconsin became involved in early Memory Cafes in the United States.  They describe them as a

“place where persons with early-stage dementia and their “carers” can come together to share social time unhampered by stigma, awkwardness or discomfort. One of the goals is to make certain no distinction is made between those who are living with memory loss and those who are not—all participants are simply enjoying time with one another. . . . Often, important ongoing friendships are formed.”

The McFaddens also offer these quotes from participants in the Memory Cafes:

“This time here when I come to the Memory Café, is the only time I feel like I am me again.’”

“I come in with a stranger and go home with my husband.”

The first Memory Cafes in the U.S. appear to have originated around 2008. Today, on the ThirdAge Services website, Carole Larkin provides a list of where they currently are, as well as a detailed pamphlet about how to begin a Memory Café in a new area. Click on Memory Cafe when you get to ThirdAge Services to find this information.

On my site, PuzzlesToRemember. I have included many photos of Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers enjoying Springbok’s PuzzlesToRemember at Memory Cafes.

Memory Cafes are a Wonderful Thing for Alzheimer’s  Patients and Caregivers

One thing is clear, we need MANY MANY more Memory Cafes in the United States. Just watch this video to see how thankful the members of one U.S. Memory Café are to the UK Memory Cafes that they used as a model:

Max Wallack
Max Wallack is a student at Boston University and a Research Intern in the Molecular Psychiatry and Aging Laboratory in the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Boston University School of Medicine. His great grandmother, Gertrude, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Max is the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER. PTR is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and veterans institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

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Original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room