Making, sharing memories at Memory Café

Austreng-Sue-new_DONE-140x140
Contributing Writer

Those experiencing memory loss can sometimes feel isolated, misunderstood, overlooked and overwhelmed. Their caregivers can feel that way, too.

Marian and Larry Heinz attend Faith Lutheran Church and were instrumental in establishing a Memory Café there.
Marian and Larry Heinz attend Faith Lutheran Church and were instrumental in establishing a Memory Café there. Photo by Sue Austreng

Longing for meaningful connection and eager to give and receive tips on living with Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive impairment and memory loss, the Anoka County Family Caregiver Connection partnered with Faith Lutheran Church to offer a twice-monthly Memory Café at the church.

“We see the need for this kind of support group,” said Jill Agyekum, coordinator of the Caregiver Connection. “There is a gap between services for those in higher need and those who are higher functioning. This is one way we can fill that need.”

Eight couples currently attend Faith’s Memory Café and seem to feel that need is being met.

“He is diagnosed (with Alzheimer’s) and we’re working as a team to get through it all. It helps to be hearing the same thing from others, to be sharing experiences, ideas, tips, asking questions,” said Marian Heinz describing the value she and her husband Larry find in attending Memory Café.

Judy Storrick’s husband Bill is currently going through the testing process to diagnose his memory loss and together they attend Memory Café at Faith.

“It really validates your thoughts and feelings … you don’t feel quite as alone when you have a place to come talk openly about everything. This is a safe place. There is understanding, there is compassion, there is no judgement,” Judy said.

The Memory Café at Faith is open to those with early to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Gatherings typically begin with “check-in time” during which participants share stories about the best and worst days of the recent weeks.

Agreeing that staying active physically, socially and mentally is good for the brain, participants are currently working with Agyekum to schedule speakers and activities to boost the Memory Café experience. Ideas include designating time to play board games or card games, establishing an opportunity to work with an artist and explore their creativity, scheduling a visit from a Japanese drummer who can give participants an opportunity to relieve tensions by drumming along with her, and inviting a minister to speak to the group about where God fits into Alzheimer’s and caregivers.

“We like to provide a time and place for interaction, laughter, tears and connection. And there is no judgement. Everyone goes through this journey in a unique way and everyone has something to share, something to learn. They really make Memory Café what it needs to be for them,” Agyekum said.

Memory Café takes place at Faith Lutheran Church, 11115 Hanson Blvd., Coon Rapids, 10 a.m. to noon the first and third Wednesdays of the month. Cost is $5 per couple per meeting.

“We are about creating memories, creating moments of joy,” Agyekum said. “Memory Café is a time and place where people with memory loss and their care partners can laugh, learn and remain socially connected with others traveling the same journey. It’s a place where they can be open without feeling embarrassed or misunderstood.”

To learn more about the Memory Café contact Agyekum at 763-422-6960 or email [email protected]