“Memory Café” Comes to Wrentham Senior Center
By Angela Weicherding-Fitton
Every year in the United States, more than 500,000 new cases of Alzheimer’s disease/dementia arise. New diagnoses are made every 67 seconds. This illness affects not only the lives of those with the disease, but also those who care for and love them.
On August 22, the Wrentham Senior Center introduced its new “Memory Café,” a gathering place within the center for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia and memory problems. The Memory Cafe was established by Robin Tobin, the center’s Outreach Worker. Tobin previously worked in Canton, where they had a Memory Cafe, and she wanted to bring this welcoming setting to the town of Wrentham.
Memory Cafes were started in the Netherlands in 1997. They are located all over the world. Since the US has been working towards becoming a more dementia-friendly society, it’s only natural that they have been popping up in many different states in recent years.
The primary goal of a Memory Cafe is to make guests feel comfortable and not so isolated. Attendees can talk with others who understand the trials and tribulations associated with Alzheimer’s, focus on strengths to build self-confidence in both the patient and the caregiver, and explore new things within the company of like-minded people. A Memory Cafe is not a respite, meaning the patient with memory problems cannot be left unattended; it is meant to be a supportive environment for both patient and caregiver.
Memory Cafes offer activities as a break from regular routines, such as guest artists, educational personnel, live entertainment, and modified exercise classes. Other times, a Memory Café can be just for relaxing. According to Tobin, “The Memory Cafe is a unique way for caregivers to connect within the community, and a lot of times they’ll receive suggestions on how to make day to day life easier.
“This is a project near and dear to my heart,” Tobin continued. “Janet, the director of the Wrentham Senior Center, and I felt that Wrentham needed a Memory Cafe. We are fighting the stigma against forgetfulness and dementia.” It should be noted that participants of the Wrentham Memory Cafe are welcome at other Memory Cafe locations as well.
Lauren Hewitt, a public health nurse in Wrentham who collaborates with the senior center, expressed great excitement about the Memory Cafe. “It’s a place where people can relate to one another. There’s a cohesiveness that comes into group bonding and helping each other out.”
Research suggests that in settings like a Memory Cafe, people are calmer because they’re around others with whom they can relate. It’s also been shown that settings such as these lower a person’s blood pressure and cause them to generate better, more helpful hormones, as opposed to cortisol and anxiety hormones.
Hewitt credited Tobin with being a key player in adding the Memory Cafe to the Wrentham Senior Center. “Robin has been so instrumental,” she stated. She also emphasized that the Memory Cafe is a great place for caregivers to find out about services of which most people are unaware.
The Memory Cafe, which is open the fourth Tuesday of every month, is an extension of the Caregiver Support Group, which is held the second Wednesday of the month. September’s Memory Cafe will be held on the 26th.
While visiting the senior center for either or both of these groups, Nurse Hewitt expressed that she and Jeannine Murphy, another registered nurse with the Public Health Alliance (PHA), want to educate people about what they’re eligible for as Wrentham residents:
• For patients who are prescribed medication, the PHA will provide medication boxes with reminder alarms.
• The nurses will provide residents in need with Depends, which are received through donations. The PHA also receives donated medical equipment, most still in its original packaging, which they can provide to patients in need.
• Every resident of Wrentham is eligible for a free case of Ensure Protein Drinks every month. These are pivotal for Alzheimer’s patients as they generally have a low appetite yet move around a lot and have difficulty maintaining or gaining weight.
• The nurses at the PHA conduct home visits to check vitals and do assessments to make it a safer environment. They can provide information about shopping for patients, rides to doctor’s appointments, or overnight help if necessary. The PHA has a partnership with BNNG, a group of local business owners who donate services.
“There is no such thing as a stupid question. We want the people of Wrentham to know what resources are available to them.” Hewitt said. The PHA nurses take every question and request very seriously and if they cannot perform a task personally, they know who will.
“It’s nice to be able to help people who are unaware of resources,” Hewitt stated. “This job makes me feel like I make a difference.” The primary goal of the PHA is to allow patients to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. And they will go to great lengths to make this a reality.
For more information on the Memory Cafe and the Caregiver Support Group, contact the Wrentham Senior Center, located at 400 Taunton Street, at (508) 384-5425, or you can email Robin Tobin at [email protected].
If you have any questions for the nurses at PHA, call (508) 384-5485 or email [email protected]