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Written By: Rachel Kytonen on November 10, 2017

 

Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease, according to the national Alzheimer’s Association. Cambridge ACT on Alzheimer’s and Family Pathways have recently started hosting a Memory Cafe, a place where individuals with memory loss and their caregivers can get together in a safe, supportive and engaging environment.

The Memory Cafe started in Cambridge in September and so far two sessions have been held.

The Memory Cafe is held from 9:30-10:45 a.m. the second Thursday of each month at SAC’s Enrichment Center, 140 Buchanan St. N., No. 164, Cambridge. Future session dates are Nov. 9, Dec. 14 and Jan. 11. There is no cost to attend the Memory Cafe, but registration is requested by contacting Family Pathways social respite coordinator Angie Detert at 320-364-1115 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. SAC’s Friendship Cafe provides refreshments and treats during the Memory Cafe.

Cambridge ACT on Alzheimer’s member Vicki Ostrom and Detert lead the Memory Cafe.

“ACT has accomplished many things to make Cambridge, and now all of Isanti County, dementia friendly, but this year we have added the big goal of starting a Memory Cafe,” Ostrom said. “The purpose of the Memory Cafe is to create a place where people with dementia and their care partners can gather to participate in a welcoming social setting with others in similar circumstances on a monthly basis. It is a safe, supportive place to have fun together.” 

Ostrom’s sister died from early Alzheimer’s and her mother was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “Bringing a Memory Cafe to the area has been a personal journey for me,” Ostrom said. “Once a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it gets harder to bring them out where there are groups of people, and you tend to avoid social settings. The Memory Cafe is a safe and supportive place for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.”

Anyone with Alzheimer’s, dementia and their care companion are welcome to attend. “You don’t have to be from this area to attend the Memory Cafe,” Ostrom said. “We have one couple who attends from Lindstrom and another couple who drives up from East Bethel. Anyone is welcome.”

GracePointe Crossing community relations director Julie Tooker said the Memory Cafe is a relaxing experience. “Everyone leaves feeling they have been out and part of a social setting,” Tooker said. “There is no intimidation with this group and you can participate as much as you would like. It’s very open and friendly, and we all just go with the flow. The Memory Cafe is a perfect partnership with Family Pathways and is a great community collaboration.”

Detert explained the Memory Cafe involves doing an activity together, with last month’s involving family traditions regarding canning and preserving. “We do an activity that involves the different senses such as smell and taste,” Detert said. “Last month we had dill pickles for them to smell and salsa with crackers and jam to taste. We also had a visual representation with a picture of a mason jar to help trigger memories for them.”

Ostrom has only heard positive feedback from those attending the Memory Cafe. “One of the wives who attends with her husband said she doesn’t get out unless she comes to the Memory Cafe,” Ostrom said. “She said she feels comfortable bringing her husband to the Memory Cafe because she knows that we know he has Alzheimer’s.”

Ostrom mentioned the group doesn’t discuss Alzheimer’s or dementia directly; however, if a care companion has specific questions, they can talk to Family Pathways caregiver consultant Jayne Mund, who also attends the Memory Cafe.

If a care companion is hesitant about bringing their loved one to the Memory Cafe, Ostrom said they are welcome to attend by themselves.

“If someone is caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia and is not sure about bringing them, the care companions are welcome to attend by themselves and check it out,” Ostrom said. “The Memory Cafe is open to anyone of any age, and we want people to feel comfortable that are attending. We know that we may be asked the same thing over and over; we know there will be repetition. We know what to expect and we all just go with the flow.”

Detert mentioned her grandfather had Alzheimer’s and she spent three years in home care. “According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and by 2020 this number could rise as high as 16 million,” Detert said.

The Memory Cafe is a place for comfort. “This is a social time for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s and a place for them to feel accepted,” Ostrom said. “As the care companion for my sister and mom, it’s super stressful and we understand. If you are taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, bring them to our Memory Cafe. Nothing will surprise us; we understand.”

Ostrom said the Memory Cafe is also important for the care companions.“Although it would seem that the Memory Cafe would be primarily for the person with dementia, it is equally important for the family member/care partner,” Ostrom said. “It is very challenging to care for someone who has Alzheimer’s. Sixty-percent of caregivers die before the person they are caring for. Memory Cafes allow caregivers to visit with one another and be a part of a social event where they don’t feel the same social stigma in settings.”

Cambridge ACT on Alzheimer’s hopes to open a second monthly Memory Cafe at Rendezvous Coffee in Isanti in early 2018.

“You see how the world shrinks when you have Alzheimer’s,” Ostrom said. “The Memory Cafe is a way to start to push the world open again a little bit more.”

Memory Cafe is funded through a $1,500 grant through East Central Energy Trust’s Operation Round Up grant program and through Isanti County Public Health through a Minnesota Board on Aging dementia grant.

Family Pathways social respite coordinator Angie Detert, GracePointe Crossing community relations director Julie Tooker and Vicki Ostrom with Cambridge ACT on Alzheimer’s invite those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia and their care companions to the monthly Memory Cafe offered in Cambridge. Photo by Rachel Kytonen