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  • Writer's pictureKaren McPhail, RN, MSN

Memory Cafes In Your Area!

The fall is approaching and may be an excellent time to try something new, especially for those caring for a loved one with Dementia. A Memory Cafe can be a terrific way to make new friends, obtain information, and find support throughout the journey! The concept of a Memory Cafe was first explored by a Dutch psychiatrist, Dr. Bere Miesen in 1997, in an attempt to improve support and to decrease isolation for those suffering from dementia and their caregivers. The concept caught on over time and eventually spread to the US. A Memory Cafe is a special place for those with mild dementia or other cognitive impairments and their loved ones! It is a safe and comfortable environment for forming new friendships, obtaining support, participating in activities, receiving helpful information, and more! Around 5 years ago, long time Great Falls resident Carol Blackwell started the first Northern, Virginia Chapter called Memory Cafe 4U. This group is truly a family and a labor of love for Carol. She started this group initially with Elise Schoux so that their husbands would have a place to meet others with the same disease. Carol knows from personal experience that the Alzheimer's journey is difficult and unpredictable, but as she puts it so eloquently, “it helps when you venture down the path with others.” Due to Carol’s efforts and the assistance of volunteers, Sandy Ashman, Betsy Knab, and Martha Bell, this group has grown from 4 families to now almost 30 in attendance. With support from Andrew Chapel United Methodist Church, meetings are held on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month from 2 pm to 4 pm. Socialization is so important and many of those impacted by a memory impairment become self conscious, secluded and hesitant to venture out or to interact with others. Each Memory Cafe is special and a little different in terms of focus and structure. Some groups place an emphasis on activities such as crafts, games, exercise, dance, and music, while others concentrate more on socialization, and caregiver education. This local group has a very social focus with frequent games, music, entertainers, parties, celebrations, and fun! No matter what the emphasis or venue, those coming to a Memory Cafe will have the opportunity to enjoy spending time with others who share a common path and journey. Although Memory Cafes always have a facilitator available to answer questions, provide resources, and guidance, participants drive the activities and focus. Memory Cafes are in a variety of locations across the country; thanks to Carol, we are fortunate to have a very special one in our local Northern, Va area! If you are interested in a Great Falls Memory Cafe, please contact Carol Blackwell at:

Or in another location across the country:

You are sure to find a Memory Cafe near you!!!! .

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