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Memory Café — supporting through socialization
Elaine Bamford
Special to the Chronicle

Memory Café is intended to enhance socialization for caregivers and their loved ones who have dementia. We come together once a month to share our memories, laughter and an understanding that none of us is alone. I am truly blessed to know each and every one of our members who teach me about unconditional love, patience, and understanding.

If you were to enter our group gathering already underway, you would think we are like any other group of club-type members just enjoying each other’s company. Laughter, music, creativity and of course a few snacks here and there round out our time together.

Memory Café is truly unique. If a caregiver of someone living with dementia is looking for information about the disease and how to deal with behaviors, you won’t find it at a Memory Café. There are support groups throughout the county specifically designed to provide information and support to the caregiver.

A Memory Café, however, is designed to focus on the gift of life and the positive aspects of what the person with dementia is still able to do. It is the only group of its kind in Citrus County, and it provides an opportunity for the loved one and their caregiver to take time to simply appreciate each other. We try to put aside all the difficulties that
come with the disease to highlight that our loved ones are so much more than their diagnosis. I am thankful that every month our caregivers and their loved ones walk in with a smile, get a hug from me, and bring a sense of joy
that we share with each other.

Currently, we have embraced an Alzheimer’s Association program that was developed by Selly Jenny in California in the late 1980s called Memories in the Making. It is an art program for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias that brings comfort and joy through the process of creating watercolor paintings.

For those with Alzheimer’s, the world can be confusing, overwhelming, and maybe even a little frightening.

Even after people with dementia have lost the ability to use words, they are often able to express thoughts and emotions and to share memories through creative painting. The experience offers an opportunity for the essence of who they are and what they care about to shine through. Participants benefit in the following ways:
Improves self-esteem
Serves as an outlet for emotions
Reduces isolation and provides opportunity to socialize with others.
Taps into pockets of memory that still exist.
Reconnects families.

Every month, I look forward to our meeting. It is a blessing for all of us. To see the friendships that have developed along with the pride of creating art that not only is beautiful, but tells us a story about their memories.

Highland Place, an assisted living facility in Inverness has recognized the value of the art that has been created by the members of Memory Café.

Highland Place, as well as Avanté and Citrus Health and Rehabilitation, are preparing for an evening event where others can come to experience the artists’ stories through their paintings on display. Members have agreed to sell their paintings and the proceeds will go to Alzheimer’s Association, Gulf Coast Chapter.
Posted on 17 Mar 2017

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