Although a growing number of people are living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder, dementia remains a taboo topic. Because of shame as well as the difficulty in managing day-to-day tasks, dementia can isolate people. Wendy Betley, family services manager for the Alzheimer’s Association of southeastern Wisconsin, says that “people with this disease are afraid of being judged. The thing we hear most…is that both parties, the caregiver and the one being cared for, lose their friends.”
Beth Soltzberg, a social worker who coordinates the Jewish Family & Children’s Service new Memory Café in Waltham, has heard the same thing. “People tell me that after the diagnosis, their friends disappear. And this is just when they need support the most.”
Enter the Memory Café. Memory Cafés, sometimes called Alzheimer’s Cafés, first appeared in Holland in 1997. Since then, they have spread throughout the UK, and to Canada and Australia. There are now about one hundred cafés in the U.S. Wisconsin, where Betley works, is at the forefront with ten cafés now in operation. This spring, JF&CS opened the second memory café in Massachusetts. Massachusetts’ other café is run by Pleasantries adult day program in Marlborough.