Local News
12:53 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

Louisville's Memory Cafe Gives People With Dementia, Caregivers a Place to Take a Break

Louisville has joined a growing number of U.S. cities in creating a place for people with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia—and their caregivers—to socialize and share a meal.  

It's called the Memory Café, a concept that perhaps can be best defined by what it’s not.

It’s not an adult daycare for people with dementia. It doesn't provide medical care. And it’s not a support group in the traditional sense. 

As odd as it may sound, it is a place for people who suffer from memory loss to share...memories.         

“It’s just a really great way for people to get together and feel good about themselves and not have to worry about where they are or who they are,” said Bari Lewis, chapter director of community outreach for the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana.  

The association, along with the University of Louisville  School of Nursing Caregivers Program , launched the city’s first Memory Café in August.  

The idea originated in Europe in the 1990s and the concept has gained popularity in the U.S. over the past decade. 

On a recent Monday afternoon, about 50 people gathered at the local association’s headquarters for fellowship, lunch and a few informal activities.   

The association’s Elizabeth Cook led a discussion about the origins of some traditional sayings or phrases, like "get your ducks in a row," and "tall, dark and handsome."

There are also videos and discussion of historic events and speeches, like President John F. Kennedy ‘s stirring call for space exploration in 1962.   Other times, there’s music and art, or the sharing of photographs.

For 74 year old Mike King, this is a place to interact with others as a person, not a patient.     

“I like the environment, because there’s other dummies like me," King said with a laugh.

King used to run a machine shop in Scottsburg, Indiana.   He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago.     

“Hey, these are real people that are living the way you are living, or have to live," he said. 

The Memory Café also offers a respite from what can be a grinding routine for caregivers, who are encouraged to participate in the activities. 

Mike King’s caregiver is Susan King, his wife of almost 29 years.

“It’s around the clock," she said.   "There’s books out there that I have been reading, and every one is different.  He is still the same person whether he has something wrong with him or not."

Over lunch with his wife and other participants, Mike King says thanks to programs like the Memory Café, he’s coping with his disease, and tries to take the difficult times in stride.

“When a find myself in a position where ‘daggone it, I did it again,’ I back away and just thank the Lord for being alive," King said.  

The Louisville Memory Café is free.  It’s held on the last Monday of the month at the Alzheimer's Association's offices in the Kaden Tower.     A second session may be added if turnout remains heavy.

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