Bringing back the past

Memory Café offers stimulation for those with memory loss
By: 
MIRIAM CAMPAN
Reporter
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
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Kimberly Haynes holds some of the magazines utilized to stimulate conversation amongst memory loss sufferers and their caretakers.

Photo by Miriam Campan

Council on Aging Personal Service Coordinator Kimberly Haynes said she was thinking about individuals with memory loss when she ran across the idea for a Memory Café – a place to combat the challenges individuals with memory loss face in most social situations. 

According to the website memorycafedirectory.com, “Many programs have been created in recent years for individuals suffering from all kinds of cognitive impairment. While Alzheimer’s is the most common, individuals with all forms of dementia, along with those surviving a stroke or traumatic brain injury, can benefit from the safe, welcoming and mentally stimulating environments of Memory Cafés.” 

“The Café is a place for people to get together. It’s a safe environment,” said Haynes. “It’s a fun, exciting environment where they can get away from the everyday norms that can create isolation.”

Haynes developed the project through her work at the Council on Aging. She explained the concept is to offer activities that might enhance a person’s reminiscences, and a place where they can engage with others who share a love of music, art or other activities.

“The Memory Café is a place where people with dementia can talk with others that share the same ailments. It’s also a place where caregivers can get together and share what works. However, it is not a respite drop off,” Haynes said.

What works to stimulate conversation, and a sense of safety in a time where life can be confusing, varies with the individual, so Memory Cafés may use music, dialogue, photographs, works of art and or even magazines from times gone by. 

“When you start from way back, you might bring up something like camping that can bring back memories of what was a good time in their life. They are thinking back to then, and not worried about things going on now,” said Haynes.

Caretakers benefit, too, Haynes said. A simple outing to a restaurant for lunch can be too much for those with memory loss, and thus can be a source of frustration for their caretaker.

“Ordering from a menu may take a long time. A menu is often too much. So people quit going out into public, which creates isolation for both caregivers and people with dementia,” said Haynes.

To decrease isolation, a Memory Café might offer games and other activities for caretakers and their charges to share, learn and enjoy an afternoon in a safe environment.

 “The Memory Café idea started in the Netherlands in 1997,” said Haynes. 

Now Memory Cafés are located throughout the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the U.S. There are two currently in Montana: one in Missoula, and now one in Lewistown.

 “The Memory Café has made my heart happy. I have done my job properly to bring this to the Council on Aging,” said Haynes.

The Café is open the second Friday of the month from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and is usually held at the Council on Aging on Watson. This month the Memory Café will be open for individuals with memory loss challenges and their caretakers Friday, Aug. 9 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Lewistown Public Library’s upstairs meeting room. The Library elevator will be available for participants to enjoy the social gathering, along with cheesecake, coffee and a special presentation by Tom Wojtowick on Lewistown history. 

For more information on Lewistown’s Memory Café call Haynes at the Council on Aging: 535-7486.

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