Move Over, Starbucks: Meet The Alzheimer's Cafe

A good idea that's likely to be replicated across the country.

There are support groups for Alzheimer's patients and there are support groups for their caregivers. But the latest type of group combines the two in a social situation -- and seems to be working on all accounts. Welcome to the Alzheimer's Cafes.

The Alzheimer's Cafe "fills an unmet need," said Felicia Greenfield, director of clinical research operations at the Penn Memory Center in Philadelphia, which operates an Alzheimer's Care there. There are certain behaviors associated with Alzheimer's that sometimes make it difficult to be in social situations, she said. As a result, caregivers often feel imprisoned at home, unable to afford relief care and unwilling or unable to bring their loved ones out with them. The goal is to provide a place for people to socialize with others who understand the unrelenting challenges they are facing.

There is a similar once-a-month cafe in operation at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in Dover. Paula Rais, the museum’s Vice President of Development and Community Engagement, told the Bangor (Maine) Daily News that she was inspired to form the Alzheimer's Cafe by one in operation at the Children’s Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Rais and her team studied the idea first and found it to be highly beneficial. In a report she helped prepare, it was noted that the cafe helps promote a sense of normalcy, both caregivers and care recipients feel a sense of community, and that those suffering for dementia reported that they liked seeing "familiar" faces.

The Penn Memory Center's popup cafe, which is being organized once a month, will eventually be expanded to include more arts and cultural experiences. But for now, just getting out of the house and into a social situation is pretty great, Greenfield told The Huffington Post.

The idea came from a social-work graduate student who is interning at the Penn Memory Center. She had read about "memory cafés" in Europe, which are basically informal gatherings where people with dementia and their caregivers can socialize. Everybody there understands and accepts the embarrassing symptoms and caregiver stress.

Greenfield said the 90-minute cafes are only open to Penn Memory Center families, but she can see them eventually being expanded.

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