We have heard the stories and they are alarming: the number of people struggling with dementia are increasing as our community ages. It is estimated that more than 1,000 residents in the Stillwater area live with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, according to ACT on Alzheimer’s, a local coalition collaborating on providing guidance to people with dementia and their informal caregivers.

Many programs have been created in recent years for individuals suffering from cognitive impairment. While Alzheimer’s is the most common, individuals with all forms of dementia, as well as those surviving a stroke or traumatic brain injury, can benefit from a safe, welcoming and mentally stimulating gathering. One example of this kind of setting is a Memory Café.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a Memory Café is a social gathering where people with memory loss and their caregivers come together in a safe, supportive environment. Attendees share conversation over a cup of coffee in a relaxed atmosphere. A Memory Cafe is a welcoming place for individuals with Alzheimer’s or any type of the dementias or brain disorders. Additionally, it is helpful for people with all forms of mild cognitive impairment.

While a Memory Cafe is beneficial to those afflicted, it is also beneficial for their caregivers. It is not a place that folks with dementia are “dropped off”; rather, it is a way for caregivers to enjoy activities with their loved one as a break from the daily pattern.

FamilyMeans recently launched the first Memory Café in Washington County. According to organizer Jenny West “a Memory Café provides facilitated conversation and community resources for those with memory loss and their caregivers. The gathering offers support and opportunities to share and connect with others facing the same challenges”.

The site of the Memory Café is Lake Elmo Inn. Owner John Schiltz shared his commitment to supporting the program by stating: “we would be honored to be your first cafe site in Washington County. I am also letting you know that I would like to be very active in this cause. I do think with your help we can be a game changer to educate the public about dementia that will have an impact on all of us at some point in our lives”. 

At the first Memory Café held in June, over 20 people attended. Evaluations after the gathering indicated that attendees found it reassuring to be with others who are in a similar situation and helpful to share experiences and resources with each other as part of this informal support group.

The Memory Café is held monthly from 9 am to 10:30 am on the second Monday of every month at Lake Elmo Inn in Lake Elmo, MN. Coffee and pastries are provided and there is no cost to attend. Lake Elmo Inn is located at 3442 Lake Elmo Avenue N., Lake Elmo, MN. Contact Jenny West at 651.789.4015 or jwest@familymeans.org.

 By: Sally Anderson