Support groups for Alzheimer’s patients and support groups for caregivers are essential for the overall health and well-being of everyone affected by the disease. Recently, a new type of support group has risen to meet the growing support need. These support groups are ones that combine support for both Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers in a social setting and has earned the name Alzheimer’s Cafes. As the article from The Huffington Post entitled “Move Over, Starbucks: Meet The Alzheimer’s Café” explains, this creative and fulfilling idea for a support group is certain to spread across the United States.
According to the Penn Memory Center in Philadelphia’s director of clinical research Felicia Greenfield, the Alzheimer’s Café fills a need for patients and caregivers that hasn’t been fulfilled previously. The nature of some Alzheimer’s behaviors make it challenging for patients to interact socially, and this can mean that caregivers have to live an isolated life at home if they can’t afford assisted care and don’t feel comfortable taking their loved ones with them on outside trips. With Alzheimer’s Cafés, caregivers and their loved ones have a designated location where they can socialize, receive, and give support to other caregivers and those suffering from the disease. The Penn Memory Center currently has a popup Alzheimer’s café that meets once a month, and they hope to expand to include more activities dealing with art and culture. Even the once a month meeting helps as it gets caregivers and their loved ones out of the house and in a social setting where everyone understands their challenges.
Along with The Penn Memory Center’s popup café, Alzheimer’s cafés are coming into fruition in other states. The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire has a once monthly café inspired by a similar café in the Children’s Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The organizer of the New Hampshire café researched the idea and progress of the New Mexico café and discovered that it was a beneficial idea that promoted a sense of community and normalcy for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. The attendees with dementia reported that seeing familiar faces at the cafés was an enjoyable experience for them.
Origins in Europe
The idea for the popup café in the Penn Memory Center came from a social work graduate student. She knew about memory cafés in Europe through research and thought that the European informal gatherings of caregivers and patients had potential in the United States. At the cafés or gatherings, everyone knows and accepts the symptoms and stress of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and it’s a safe space for social interaction.