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Seattle Alzheimer’s Cafes Lead Local “Momentia” Movement

Welcome! The doors are opening on Seattle’s Alzheimer’s Cafés. The first café, located in the Greenwood neighborhood, now in operation for over 2 years, serves people with Alzheimer’s or dementia and their families and partners. On the menu is food, drinks, fun and enjoyment every second Tuesday for 1 ½ hours from 3:30-5pm. Carin Mack, a local geriatric social worker, started the café which has spurred cafe development in many metro areas such as: West Seattle, Bothell, Columbia City, Green Lake, Renton, and Bellevue. “The goal is one in every neighborhood,” Mack said enthusiastically.

“They’re easy to start. It doesn’t cost money,” Mack said of her successful program. “One needs to find a good space in the community and work with a willing business owner to host the cafe. Each cafe is different and it is a good idea to visit one or two before you set one up,” she explained. “You need someone willing to do the publicity, a person who will be there for continuity and a couple volunteers.” Attendance at most cafes varies month to month though the Columbia city café, hosted quarterly by Tutta Bella, draws a crowd. “Oh, it’s magical,” Mack emphasized. “They set up a buffet of four pizzas and salad and everyone buys their own beer or beverage.”

The concept of an Alzheimer’s café originated in the Netherlands. The first Alzheimer’s Café in the U.S. opened in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2008. Author, consultant, lecturer, and Alzheimer’s specialist, Dr. Jytte Lokvig, its founder, said she came across the café idea while on the Internet looking for something else and thought, “Of course! It’s so simple and so right. Why didn’t I think of that?”

Since mid 2011, the café movement has been sweeping across the United States. Carin Mack said her inspiration was a member of the spousal support group for Early Stage Memory Loss that meets at Greenwood Senior Center. Having just come back from Britain, impressed by an Alzheimer’s Café she saw there, she asked Mack, “Do you think you could start one here? Not only did she start one Mack now partners with Washington Health Foundation to mentor café development throughout the region.

As a social function, the Alzheimer’s café isn’t different than a normal café. “When you’re caring for a person or you are someone living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, your daily life overwhelmingly revolves around the disease. Increasingly your only contact with the outside world as care partners is disease related,” Dr. Lokvig explained. “The 2 hours of café time give everyone a chance to be themselves and relax in a safe, supportive, and non-judgmental environment. The café is a respite from the disease and it allows the care-partners to share something positive and see one another in the community through a different lens.”

Alzheimer’s cafes spawn spin-off groups. In the 5 years of  Dr. Lokvig’s Santa Fe Alzheimer’s café, attendees have organized things such as a walking group, poetry group, and art group. A walking group also spun out of Seattle’s Alzheimer’s café in Greenwood led by Marigrace Becker a local social worker partnering with Seattle Parks and Recreation. “People look forward to meeting each month,” observed Mack.

As part of a movement, The Alzheimer café stands in our neighborhoods as a symbol that we’re ready to move past the fear and stigma of the disease. Café’s exist as refuge, support and an anchor for greater development of services and advocacy. They’re part of an exciting spectrum of changes, in Seattle and around the nation, in the way we’re serving and viewing people living with the disease.  “We have a vibrant early stage memory loss and Alzheimer’s community here in Seattle,” said Mack pointing to Marigrace Becker’s blog The New Dementia Story. In it, Becker coins the movement “Momentia” and outlines a world of expanding opportunities in increasingly “dementia capable” communities. Momentia challenges us to find new ways to promote, encourage, advocate, listen to, support, enjoy, and include people living with Alzheimers and Dementia.

If you or someone you know is coping with Alzheimer’s or dementia you know a range of emotions but you also know the special gifts of being in a moment with friends. Drop into anyone of Seattle’s Alzheimer’s Cafes for a good time and warm company. Enjoy the moment. Get connected with the energy of Momentia.

Help keep the momentum going. Launch an Alzheimer’s café in your neighborhood! Contact Carin Mack by telephone at: (206) 230-0166 or email. Also feel free to email Dr Jytte Lokvig for support and guidance.

 

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