Memory Cafés Provide Respite for Caregivers

| Senior Solutions News

Since last spring, Senior Solutions has held Memory Cafes every month in Springfield at the Congregational Church and at the American Legion Post #5 in Brattleboro. These gatherings give caregivers the opportunity to take a break and attend a social gathering with their loved ones with debilitating conditions who cannot be left at home alone. The cafes are held from 11 am – 1 pm and are free of charge. Everyone brings a bag lunch.

At the November Memory Café in Brattleboro shortly before Thanksgiving, attendees were treated to a special homemade holiday lunch. The agency’s Community Relations Director, Joann Erenhouse, made a delicious beef stew and a green salad, and the agency’s former Home Visitor Program Manager Vicki Mastroianni baked biscuits and an apple pie. The current Home Visitor Program Manager Victoria Alleman brought several more pies, and Volunteer Coordinator Valerie Stuart provided cheese, crackers, and apple cider.

At the cafés, caregivers sit together at one table and their loved ones sit at a table in another part of the room. Sometimes the caregivers listen to a speaker who talks about the challenges of providing full-time care for individuals with conditions ranging from dementia to Parkinson’s. On other occasions, the caregivers offer each other advice and support.

The caregivers’ loved ones have fun interacting with each other and with Senior Solutions’ volunteers Frankie Cloutier and Walter Stover. They also play games. Another regular volunteer, Reverend Janice Chilek, plays the guitar and encourages everyone to sing along to well-known songs. At the café in December, she played Christmas music.

“The two hours provided a wonderful chance for me to talk with others who deal with the same issues I have,” one of the caregivers noted. “The huge plus was that I had time alone and could interact with peers without worrying about my husband. He also enjoyed the interaction with others.”

Okemo Valley TV features Memory Cafes

On Okemo Valley TV, Joann Erenhouse and her co-host Jim Collins recently interviewed Victoria Alleman, the Manager of Senior Solutions’ Home Visitor programs, about the Memory Cafés. They also  interviewed one of the cafés’ regular attendees, Suzanne Colvin, about her experience living with early stage Alzheimer’s. Suzanne is very active in the Vermont chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, lobbying on their behalf and fundraising. Suzanne says she hopes more people with Alzheimer’s will attend the Memory Cafes in the future so they can share information and provide peer support. Currently, most of the attendees at the Memory Café are caregivers with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s or other debilitating conditions. If you would like to learn more about the Memory Cafes and watch the show, please use the link below.

The Memory Cafes in Springfield are currently on hold pending the recruitment of increased interest.  Those interested in being involved in either the Brattleboro or Springfield locations should contact the HelpLine at 802-885-2669.