WOOSTER – Connie Hodgdon enjoyed a bowl of hot soup and a sandwich as she sat next to her husband, Ralph, who ate his own lunch. While they ate, they talked with other people eating and sitting in the quiet room of the First Presbyterian Church to Wooster for its Memory Café.
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Even though her husband sometimes struggles with social outings due to his Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia, Hodgdon said she liked being able to bring him to the weekly event. With the quiet space, the familiar faces and the fun activities, Hodgdon said it can be a fun outing without having to worry about societal pressures.
“It’s kind of a nice environment where you can actually get one person talking and they have time to wait,” Hodgdon said. “Which is also good, because it’s just really hard to always give enough time and attention (to people with memory problems). ”
Only available since September, Wooster’s Memory Café is one of five cafes offered by LIFE: a foundation for dementia. With high hopes for Wooster’s site and possible expansion plans, the company founder and Hodgdon are both hoping more people will start to frequent them.
What is a Memory Café and what is LIFE?
The Alzheimer association defines a Memory Café as “a comfortable social gathering that allows people with memory loss and a loved one to connect, socialize and create new support networks”.
Although the activities offered in each vary, the benefits these programs offer to caretakers and those with memory impairments have resulted in more and more cafes popping up across the country in recent years. According to a item published by the American Association for Retired Persons, there are over 900 memory cafes in the United States in 2020.
Five of these cafes are managed by the LIFE organization: A Dementia Friendly Foundation, founded by Carole Klingler about five years ago.
Klingler, who is a registered nurse, said she had worked in long-term care for several years, where she had noticed both a lack of support for caregivers and safe spaces for people affected by illnesses like Madness.
“I always felt like we weren’t supporting the people in our community enough,” Klingler said. “… Basically, they (the caregivers) are under stress or they don’t know what to do. And I was like, “Why don’t we give more support to caregivers in the community, in addition to providing things to keep the person with dementia active and engaged for as long as possible?” “”
After opening its first café, LIFE has grown and now offers Memory Cafés in the following five locations across Ohio: Wooster, North Ridgeville, Amherst, Wellington and Vermilion. The organization also received a Civil society award from Manhattan Institute Last year.
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Advantages of coffee spaces
As someone who worked in long-term care, Klingler saw what would happen when someone was diagnosed with dementia. This person could find resources through organizations such as the Alzheimer Association or the Ohio Department of Aging, but Klinger said many of those programs are spread both in terms of location and timing.
By providing a common space for both the person with memory impairment and the caregiver, Klingler said cafes can be a safe space where both parties can make art, music and events. physical activities without having to travel to several places.
Klingler said they also occasionally offer educational programs for caregivers, ranging from funeral planning and veteran benefits, to the Elders Act and Medicare explanations.
Each cafe has a designated day on which they offer the services, usually through a local church or community center, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Wooster’s location is at First Presbyterian Church on avenue du Collège.
Klingler said that even though the cafe is open for 4 hours, attendees don’t have to stay all the time and have the freedom to come and go on their schedule.
With some funding from LIFE and help from local community groups, such as Danbury retirement home and Sprenger in Wooster, Klingler said they try to make the coffees free for attendees, so it’s even easier to attend.
“Obviously it costs something to make it work, but I want to keep it at no cost to caregivers and participants, for several reasons, but most importantly, I don’t want this to be a barrier for them to get support.” , Klingler said.
Develop for the future
Although she has heard positive reviews of the programs offered in cafes, Klingler said she hopes to adapt and add more in some places.
For Wooster’s location, she hopes to eventually offer pet therapy and provide opportunities for students in the community to get involved and help.
“What I find with students is that they just come in and say, ‘What can I do? How can I help?’ … And so it’s really easy to work with them, ”said Klingler. “And our caregiver participants want to help students succeed, so it’s a win-win. ”
With five locations already operational across the state, Klingler said they hope to open more coffee shops in the future, and she has already heard from residents of Millersburg and Cuyahoga Falls expressing interest in a café.
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For Hodgdon, she hopes to see Wooster’s site continue to grow by getting more people to attend the weekly events.
“We would really like there to be more people here, to help everyone feel like a part of a bigger group,” Hodgdon said. “… It’s just a welcoming place to come. It’s easy to be here and you are with people who understand the issues you might be facing.
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