We all seek safety in our lives, whether it’s job security or a safe grab bar in the bathroom – and of course everything else in between. One such safe environment for individuals living with dementia and those who care for them is a Memory Cafe. Memory Cafes offer safe and comfortable dementia friendly outings.
What is a Memory Cafe?
A Memory Cafe is any sort of event or outing designed to be dementia friendly. Why is that important? It is an unfortunate reality that many people living with dementia have unpleasant experiences with going about their normal lives. Often, they are misunderstood, judged, and the target of a wrongly placed stigma.
Memory Cafe is a wonderfully welcoming place for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease or any other form of dementia, as well as other forms of cognitive impairment. This “no judgement zone” is a great opportunity to interact with others in a safe and friendly environment.
There are as any different types of Memory Cafe as there are… well… Memory Cafes! Each one is a bit different, based on the personalities and backgrounds of the facilitators and the participants. Some are activities-based, while others focus on education. You might have one enjoying the connections of demographic-appropriate music and dancing. Others might focus on crafts and painting. Some simply guide the participants in exercises that foster reminiscing.
There truly is something for everyone!
Not Respite Care
While a Memory Cafe is beneficial for those living with dementia, it is also beneficial for their caregivers as well. It is not a place to “drop off” your loved one for a while, but a way to enjoy activities with them as a break from the normal routine that you share.
A Memory Cafe is a safe and comfortable space where caregivers and their loved ones can socialize, listen to music, play games, and enjoy other appropriate activities. They provide mutual support and exchange information. This by itself is valuable if for nothing more than to obtain information about additional resources.
The Memory Cafe’s Roots
With roots in the Netherlands, Dr. Bere Miesen, a Dutch psychiatrist introduced the Memory Cafe concept in 1997 as a way to break through the stigma associated with various forms of Dementia. It simply “wasn’t discussed” and those living with the disease – and their caregivers – were suffering as a result.
The concept spread throughout Europe, to Ireland and England, Australia and eventually to the United States. As the Memory Cafe concept evolved, it grew into a very open culture, including more than just those living with various forms of Dementia.
Memory Cafes Today
New Memory Cafes, with a diverse collection of focus areas, continue to open across the country – and around the world – as a natural response to a growing health concern. However, that growth nearly stopped, and has evolved significantly, once we entered the COVID era.
MemoryCafeDirectory.com had over 900 Memory Cafe listings in 5 countries when COVID restrictions took place. Now late in 2020, some “in-person” Memory Cafes have started to very carefully test the water for resuming operations. Time will tell if their effort is successful.
Memory Cafes Today – And in the Future
One very encouraging development that came out of the COVID challenges has been the move to an online “virtual” Memory Cafe format. Just as many businesses around the world have moved meetings online, the Zoom platform is a favorite of Memory Cafe operators. It’s easy to both set up and to use.
With this move to an online format, geographic boundaries no longer are in play. In fact, the “COUNTRY/STATE/CITY” format in use on the rest of the site doesn’t pertain to the online format. To accommodate a “scheduled” instead of a “zip code” MemoryCafeDirectory.com now uses a calendar format in a new section called Cafe Connect.
Cafe Connect allows those seeking an online experience to select the day and time that works for them, read about that gathering, contact the organizer, and get registered – all from the safety and comfort of their own home.
Safety and Comfort
The move to online Memory Cafes started with the demands placed on society by COVID. Staying engaged in appropriate activities by individuals living with dementia is important, but of course, staying safe is critical. What better way to stay safe, than in the comfort of home?
While COVID caused it to start, many believe the virtual Memory Cafe will live on well after COVID is behind us. This new tool has allowed many to stay engaged easily. Social isolation is a significant problem in the senior community, and is often exacerbated for those in the dementia community.
Anyone who aligns with the Age Safe America mission will quickly see the value Memory Cafes – and virtual Memory Cafes – hold for our dementia friends. Keeping our loved ones safe and comfortable is a mission for all of us.
About the Author
Dave Wiederrich is the founder of JADCOM Media LLC, (JADCOMMedia.com) an online publishing and marketing company. One of JADCOM Media’s web properties is MemoryCafeDirectory.com. With over 900 Memory Cafes in 5 countries, and with over 75 virtual Memory Cafe listings, the site draws thousands of visitor monthly, seeking valuable caregiving resources. It also offers Memory Joggers (a free, fun recall exercise) and the Guest Author program to allow dementia authors to share the backstory behind their books.
Global Handwashing Day is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to advocacting for handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. “Hand Hygiene for All” is the theme of this year’s Global Handwashing Day, following a recent World Health Organization initiative calling for improved hand hygiene. Global Handwashing Day was established by the Global Handwashing Partnership.
The first Global Handwashing Day was held in 2008, when over 120 million children around the world washed their hands with soap in more than 70 countries. Everyone can protect themselves, their families, and their communities through handwashing with soap. Though it requires few resources—soap and a small amount of water—the benefits are significant. Handwashing with soap helps prevent the spread of infections including influenza and Ebola.
Keeping our hands clean is one of the simplest and most important habits we can adopt to prevent contracting Covid-19 and spreading the coronavirus that causes the disease to others. Without washing properly and killing off the coronavirus — and other viruses, bacteria and germs we pick up from raw meats, fecal matter and respiratory droplets — it can spread between people and cause disease.
After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
After handling pet food or pet treats
After touching garbage
Follow Five Steps to Wash Your Hands the Right Way
Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community—from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals.
Follow these five steps every time.
Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Worried about dry hands? After washing your hands, simply pat them dry with a clean towel but leave them slightly damp “to lock in the moisture” from ointments and creams that you’ll work into your skin, fingertips and nails.\
The economics of aging-in-place home modifications are compelling, especially in comparison to the cost and trauma of a single fall for an older adult. Aging in place not only offers seniors an improved quality of life, it is fiscally sound as well, saving Americans billions in avoided costs. Empowering individuals to live at home rather than in institutional settings will yield a significant cost savings to Medicaid—and to taxpayers.
It is not just our fiscal responsibility, but our moral responsibility to ensure every American, no matter their age or ability, has the opportunity to live out their later years however they wish—and with the support and dignity they deserve.
Simple home modifications can provide the stability needed to age confidently at home.
Today, many active seniors find it is far more cost-efficient to make home improvements to accommodate the effects of aging rather than seek out a facility that meets all their unique needs.
According to NAHB, moving to a typical assisted living facility can cost upwards of $60,000 per year each year while the cost to widen a bathroom door, put in safety bars and a roll-in shower should typically cost closer to the vicinity of $8,000 — which is a one-time expense instead of a yearly drain on a homeowner’s finances.
Aging-in-place remodeling projects that saw the largest increases over the past five years were additional lighting (also known as “task lighting”), showers without curbs, bathtub grab bars, non-slip floors and widened doorways. The most popular exterior improvements include ramps or “zero step” entrances, package shelves near front doors, handrails installed at existing steps and porch or front door sidelights.
As we go into September, National Falls Prevention Month, we are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic across the US and the world. We have been sheltering in place by mandate or choice. Yet, the risks of falling do not decrease with fewer outings! And the challenges of caregiving have grown as personal visits have not been possible for many families. So there are different ways to approach the risks of falling and possible solutions but, most importantly, we need to have the conversations about falls. Falls Prevention Awareness Week, September 21-25, 2020, is designed to spread this important public health message.
Falls are a leading cause of lost independence and mobility; often leaving seniors unable to fully recover from the trauma. Their overall health declines, and care needs increase significantly. People aged 65 and older have a 25% greater chance of falling. And if someone has fallen once, their chances of falling again doubles. It seems like common sense — everybody falls, no matter what age. However, for many older adults, an unexpected fall can result in a serious and costly injury. The good news is that most falls can be prevented. If you are the caregiver, you have the power to reduce your loved one’s risk of falling, and your own fall risk as well.
The National Council on Aging in partnership with the National Alliance for Caregiving has prepared a Conversation Guide to help caregivers and family members discuss the importance of fall risk reduction. Taking the action and beginning the conversation is the first step. It is not easy to tell a family member or friend that you are concerned about their safety or chances of falling. So, the use of supportive language is a great place to start, perhaps with an offer to follow-up on a wellness appointment so the discussion of fall risks can be part of an overall conversation. As with all conversations, positive tone and body language is vital.
Remember, this conversation may have to happen more than once to gather the full view of the risks and encourage participation. In addition to wellness checks for medication management concerns, the annual eye exam can be crucial. Subtle changes in vision can reduce depth perception, making even stepping out of the house or off a curb more dangerous. If your family member wears transition lenses which change with the ambient light, one strategy may be to simply stop and wait for the time to allow the lenses and, therefore, the vision to adjust before walking further. Extra lighting along outdoor pathways and interior hallways can reduce the chance of not seeing the tripping hazard that may be present.
Doing an evaluation of the home for safety hazards can be done, even with social distancing! As the caregiver, if you look for the tripping hazards or the ways to make every day activities easier; such as a handheld shower or grab bars, it’s a start and part of the safety conversation. The safety of your loved one reduces your stress and worry as the caregiver. You can reach out for a professional to assist you in a comprehensive home safety assessment as well, if you are not near your loved one.
Age Safe® America develops training programs and certifications to empower senior services providers to better help decrease falls and fall-related injuries.
Adults aged 65 and over are the largest and fastest growing age group in our society. Historically, older members of our society were valued for their vast knowledge and contributions to society. Unfortunately, older adulthood is not universally celebrated and valued here in the US. Ageism (negative attitudes and behavior toward older adults) continues to be a serious national problem. Senior Citizens Day was created as a day to support, honor, and show appreciation to our seniors and to recognize their achievements. President Reagan established this day in 1988 and the Proclamation is still relevant today.
“Throughout our history, older people have achieved much for our families, our communities, and our country. That remains true today, and gives us ample reason this year to reserve a special day in honor of the senior citizens who mean so much to our land.
With improved health care and more years of productivity, older citizens are reinforcing their historical roles as leaders and as links with our patrimony and sense of purpose as individuals and as a Nation. Many older people are embarking on second careers, giving younger Americans a fine example of responsibility, resourcefulness, competence, and determination. And more than 4.5 million senior citizens are serving as volunteers in various programs and projects that benefit every sector of society. Wherever the need exists, older people are making their presence felt — for their own good and that of others.
For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older — places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.”
In honor of this day, call your grandparents, mother, father, brother, sister, or old high school teacher; and tell them that you appreciate everything they have done for you. Today is also a great day to volunteer at a retirement home and visit someone who may not receive many visitors.
Creating a safe home environment for senior citizens starts with the bathroom — the place where, for the elderly, most at-home accidents occur. Whether it’s a slip in the shower or tripping on the way to the restroom at night, falls and injuries are especially common in the bathroom. To improve bathroom safety at home, you need to know how to handle the hazards. Here are some important bathroom safety tips to help keep you or your loved ones safe.
1. INSTALL GRAB BARS Grab bars give you something to hold when you’re getting into and out of the shower. They also offer a way to catch yourself if you’re about to fall. Add grab bars and safety rails to the shower/ tub and near the toilet. Make sure they’re anchored well enough to support an adult’s weight.
2. ADD NON-SKID SURFACES While skid-proof decals are a step in the right direction, they don’t cover the entire bathtub surface, so slips are still possible. Look instead for a mat that covers the surface of the bathtub floor. Likewise, you may want to add a mat with a rubber backing to the bathroom floor.
3. PUT IN NIGHTLIGHTS For those middle-of-the-night trips back and forth to the bathroom, nightlights add illumination that can make all the difference between seeing your way safely to the restroom and tripping on something along the way.
4. LOWER THE WATER TEMPERATURE Set the whole-house water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower so that an elderly person is less likely to get burned.
5. PROVIDE SEATING Extended periods of standing to brush teeth, wash up for bed, etc., can be wearying to an elderly body. Add seating to the bathroom so a person can sit while getting ready. Likewise, consider adding a shower chair with a rigid back that allows for a seated position while showering.
6. RAISE THE TOILET SEAT To prevent overexertion from having to go to the bathroom, add a raised toilet seat that makes sitting down and getting up much easier. For anyone with knee pain, hip pain, joint pain, etc., this can be a great, practical way to improve bathroom safety.
7. HAVE ITEMS WITHIN REACH Whether it’s shampoo and conditioner easily reachable in the shower, or toothpaste and soap easy accessible at the sink, keep items in the places where you use them. This helps eliminate unnecessary reaching, searching and standing — and the potential for accidents that comes with them.
8. PROVIDE SUPERVISION In some cases, the best and most important way to protect a senior citizen in the bathroom is through the care of a loved one. Whether it’s a relative, friend or home health aide, having someone nearby greatly reduces the chance of serious injury.