Locals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia and their caretakers have a new community resource. A memory cafe will be hosted at the Hatch Public Library Jan. 17 from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin Juneau and Adams County Outreach Specialist Nancy Thacker said it will be the first in a series of memory cafes.
“A memory cafe is basically a place for persons who have early stage Alzheimer’s or dementia to come with a caregiver,” Thacker said. “It’s a chance to socialize and a chance to participate in a program… there’s also games that we often do.”
Mile Bluff Medical Center Grant Writer Martha Airth-Kindree said several activities are planned. “We’re hoping to have a lot of guests come in, whether it be singing or exercises,” Airth-Kindree said. “To get active and get involved.”
Thacker said it can be helpful for dementia patients and their loved ones to meet others who are dealing with similar challenges. “What this does, is it reduces isolation and it also reduces the stigma,” Thacker said. “They see others who are going through the same thing. And they can develop relationships and even friendships. I’ve seen people that have been to a memory cafe and they’ve gone out for lunch or dinner afterwards.”
Thacker said it is normal to experience some hesitation and nervousness as a patient or caregiver before attending their first memory cafe. “Just give it a try,” Thacker said.
Exact turnout is uncertain, but Airth-Kindree said they have received several calls expressing interest in the cafe.
“There are other people going through this, they can be a support to you,” Airth-Kindree said. “It can be reassuring to know you’re not alone in the world.”
Airth-Kindree said there are an estimated 559 people with dementia of some kind in Juneau County. “And that doesn’t include people who aren’t diagnosed and things like that, so the numbers are even greater,” Airth-Kindree said.
The challenge of publicly dealing with dementia is complicated by aging demographics. “As we move forward, we’re just approaching this cusp of the baby boomers,” Airth-Kindree said. “And the numbers are kind of staggering.”
Airth-Kindree said healthy aging should be a priority for Juneau County going forward, including assistance for those with dementia. “We need that kind of support in the community,” Airth-Kindree said.
“It’s equally important for the caregivers too, so they see they’re not alone either,” Thacker said.
Airth-Kindree said 110,000 people in Wisconsin are living with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia. “By 2040, that number is expected to increase by 46 percent,” Airth Kindree said.