Mary Van Deman - May 8, 2020
My husband, Carl, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the spring of 2016, though his symptoms began a couple of years earlier. When I heard about the Memory Café in the Sun Lakes area I hoped he would be willing to give it a try because I desperately needed support and advice for my new role as Caregiver. Carl would have none of it. He was angry about the diagnosis. While he would admit to a little trouble finding words, he was quite sure that his thinking ability was what it had always been – excellent. One morning in the spring of 2019, after a particularly difficult period, I woke up and announced that I was going to go to Memory Café and that he could come with me if he wanted. If not, I would go without him. Again he declined, so I went alone telling him I’d use this opportunity to check it out and let him know if I thought he’d like it.
On my first visit, after a brief joint meeting, we caregivers retired to a separate room while our care partners remained to enjoy a program of cognitive engagement with a professional group leader. This aspect of Memory Café is so vital that I can’t overstate how important it is to the success of this group. In a group that I had previously tried to attend there was no corresponding program for dementia patients. I had to sneak out of the house to attend because it offended my husband that I would think I needed a support group for a problem that he didn’t believe we had. As his disease progressed to the point where I could not leave him alone, I would not have been able to attend at all without finding someone to stay with him. That would have been a battle as well because he didn’t think he needed a “baby sitter”.
The support group meeting was exactly what I needed. It was a small group and everyone had a chance to share in the discussion. I found welcoming friends who spoke of their challenges, successes and concerns in a way that made me feel that I was no longer alone in my struggle. The group leader was experienced and professional and I soon learned to bring a notebook to record all of the useful information that I gleaned from the leader as well as from the other caregivers. Experience is a great teacher.
Though skeptical, my husband agreed to give Memory Café a try and we went together the following week, and every week thereafter, until he reached the end of his journey on March 3, 2020. He LOVED it! He, too, was welcomed warmly and made to feel at home. He loved the programs, which varied each week and often included slides or music to draw participants out and help them remember life experiences. I was told that Carl was very animated as he shared memories with the group and the group leader. We both looked forward to Mondays because it was Memory Café Day. His comment was, “These people are just like us!” That sums it up. These people are just like us. We felt at home in the Memory Café and formed lasting friendships with exceptional people.
The path of dementia is a difficult road to travel, full of potholes and rocks to navigate with no clear view of the way forward. Memory Café means you don’t have to travel it alone.
Caroline Vincitorio about her father Tony Vincitorio.
Every other Monday we attend the Memory Café at Methodist Church in Sun Lakes. This is something We / I am my father‘s caregiver/ look forward to attending.
As a caregiver this group is a blessing. As a child caring for my only parent the struggles are challenging.
The trips down memory lane that are regenerated by the trained teams from Valley organizations that Wayne has so perfectly brought together is priceless. Some of the best days we as caregivers can hope for is opening doors from our loved ones past. Loved ones that have been stricken with the disease of Alzheimer’s and dementia attend group discussions, sing-alongs, brings back glimmers of their pasts lives to be shared again and reawaken.
My father will retell the stories he has remembered for days after the Memory Cafe. He will talk about how they decorated their homes, celebrate holidays, family Traditions, and trip taken. Things forgotten and will be again but heart warming to maybe hear once more. My father understands that this group meets only two times a month. After each group he tells Wayne and others how he wishes it would meet weekly. His mood is Lighten up when he knows we will be going to the Memory café.
Now for the important part the side of the caregiver group has been a blessing. Being able to break off from our loved ones with the ability to be guided by trained Professionals that orchestrate a group where we can talk openly about the day-to-day struggles. Get reassurance that we still have the patience to continue on. Here we are together to support each other and know we’re not alone.
It helps relieve some of the stress by talking and laughing with others that are going through this, getting little helpful tips from those who will be entering into the later part of this journey but, most of all Knowing that there’s a place “We” Can Also look forward to attending. The resources that the professionals provide, the knowledge to help network you through every difficult part of Alzheimer and dementia is priceless. The Memory café offers a place to go to feel welcome and support you know you’re not alone.
We truly admire Wayne for his perseverance, dedication and the energy he has put into growing a truly needed group. Alzheimer and dementia are ugly diseases. Like thieves they steal your most precious assets. The memory café creates a calming place for the caregivers to persevere.
Maurice says his wife, Joy, has always enjoyed music. She has a sweet voice but didn’t really do much with it. Now, Joy lives with Alzheimer’s and Maurice is her primary caregiver. The Music Therapy Program is now something the two of them do together and enjoy.
A welcome excursion during their week, the Music Therapy Program has become something Joy loves doing. The interaction and socializing with familiar neighbors is terrific but mostly, Joy listens to the words, and joins in singing to her heart’s content.
Maurice attributes the success of the program to its leadership. Sun Joo really gets everyone involved and helps the group warm up with vocal and breathing exercises. Everyone seems to really have a great time.
The couple has made the program a priority in their plans. A tennis player, Maurice says he plays often and has even seen friends and neighbors from the community there. He has nothing but praise for the program and how it has enriched their lives. His only suggestion is that the program be longer…the hour and 15 minutes goes by so quickly, he’d love to have more time to enjoy it.