UK HealthCare

Memory Café Benefits Alzheimer Patients and Caregivers

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 28, 2011) - The following column appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Sunday, Nov. 27.

Memory Cafés: A new concept for living with Alzheimer's and other memory disorders

By Dr. Deborah Danner

Isolation and lack of social stimulation are common problems for individuals living with Alzheimer's disease or other memory disorders and for their caregivers. People with memory loss may feel embarassed or inhibited from socializing — afraid they will say or do the wrong thing. Caregivers may feel cut off from the world. Both parties often suffer from a lack of creative outlets and social contact.

To fulfill these needs for social enrichment, the University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has launched a new concept for memory care support in Lexington — the "Memory Café."

The Memory Café, based on a model first employed in Europe, is now gaining popularity in Canada and the United States. It provides a regular gathering place where participants can exchange ideas and thoughts, experience art and music, enjoy refreshments, and share laughter. Education and resource materials are provided, and experts in the field are available, but the focus is on interaction with other participants.

At the November Memory Café in Lexington, guests examined an exhibit of photographs by a local camera club and listened intently to stories of early life memories by fellow participants. Some, but not all, participants could identify a butter press brought in to elicit memories from the past. A discussion of High Bridge, however, made everyone long for a road trip.

Background music and fresh-brewed coffee created the ambience of an upscale coffee shop.  At future gatherings, Memory Café guests will be assisted in documenting their family members' lives by creating memory books. The books are designed to foster discussions with family members and friends outside the Café.

The Memory Café takes place the second Monday of each month, from 3 to 5 p.m., at the Living Arts and Science Center, 362 N. Martin Luther King Blvd., Lexington.  The Dec.12 meeting will have a holiday theme.

Hosted by the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and the Living Arts and Science Center, the event also receives support from the Alzheimer's Association, the Bluegrass Area Agency on Aging and various UK departments. The Memory Café is a place where guests can come to take a break, immerse themselves in creativity, be treated with dignity, and hopefully make new friends.

The Café is free of charge and open to anyone with a memory problem and their caregiver(s). To sign up or to learn more about the Memory Café, contact the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at (859) 257-8971.

Deborah Danner is assistant professor of Behavioral Science, and the head of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center Educational Core at the University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. She directs educational and outreach programs including the Memory Café and the African-American Dementia Outreach Partnership.