Is the Memory Café Right for Me? What Is It, You Ask?

Sheryl Keeme

The Memory Café is an inviting place for friends, family members, or caregivers living with dementia or cognitive decline in themselves or their loved ones. Whether that cognitive decline is from a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, age, health-related complications, or dementia, a welcoming door at Memory Café is wide open for all.

Each Monday at 10 a.m., a support group—meeting virtually right now—is a safe haven for people to share their stories, release their frustrations, celebrate their accomplishments, and understand their fears. Even the newest members consider themselves family, because Memory Café is a warm, welcoming, comfortable place, where individuals never feel alone. Engaging with others who share the same reality is a huge and inexplicable comfort when you realize you are not alone in your journey. Memory Café members express never imagining that others are living through the same kinds of experiences as they are.

Memory Café can be a place for you if you are new to living with dementia or well on your way in this journey, whether it’s Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body, Vascular, Frontal Lobe dementia, or something else. Some caregivers even choose to remain with the group after their loved ones have passed. Safety, security, acceptance, and opportunity—all powerful experiences—are part of the Memory Café culture for all who have come to understand this journey is not meant to be traveled alone.

When we may safely reconnect in person, virtual sessions will continue to be offered for those who prefer or need that option. During our COVID response, our two sessions are split. Currently, our support group for caregivers is held at 10 a.m. Arizona Time, every Monday, and then again at 1 p.m., an engagement program is held for partners with cognitive decline. When we return to in-person meetings, both sessions will run concurrently, so partners may attend together. Memory Café is meant to offer connections for the family to experience together. When in person, we start out with coffee and pastries and socialize as a group. Then partners separate into their own groups, and both make their own friends. Unexpected and amazing friendships have developed, and both partners find connection in their own space.

For more information on the programs, volunteering opportunities, and Zoom links to join the meetings, contact Wayne Mangold, founder of the Creative Engagement Partners, who started the Memory Café here in Sun Lakes. Wayne founded Memory Café and other engagement programs after having walked the dementia road with his late wife. You can reach Wayne at [email protected] or 480-580-8317.

Elaine Poker-Yount, CDP, is secretary of the Creative Engagement Partners and can be reached at [email protected] or 480-203-8548.