Milwaukee County officials this week will celebrate the opening of a new memory cafe, as part of a continued effort to provide designated spaces in which people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias can socialize.
The new cafe, held at Daddy’s Soul Food & Grille, 754 N. 27th St., is the sixth memory cafe hosted in a partnership among Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute, Alzheimer’s Association Southeastern Wisconsin, Milwaukee Public Museum and Milwaukee Center for Independence.
Different from a support group, memory cafes are designed to provide a setting in which those with dementia and their caregivers can socialize, free from awkwardness and stigma. The concept originated in Europe and has begun taking off in the United States in recent years, said Bashir Easter, dementia care program specialist for Milwaukee County.
Memory cafe activities vary from day-to-day and location-to-location, but Milwaukee Public Museum’s SPARK! Program is often incorporated, allowing participants to interact with artifacts, which helps stimulate the senses of people with memory loss.
“These individuals, while they’re in the community, can still be able to enjoy being in the community and go back to the places they stepped away from,” Easter said. “One day a month, for an hour and a half, family, caregivers and friends go with these individuals to the cafes and they just have a good time. There are no banners, there are no signs that talks about the disease, because it’s not a support group. It’s a place to reconnect and reduce the stigma.”
Current Milwaukee County partnership locations include Cranky Al's in Wauwatosa, Ferch's Malt Shoppe and Grill in Greendale, Miss Katie's Diner in Milwaukee, Three Lions Pub in Shorewood, and St. Francis Brewery in Milwaukee.
Many of the restaurant owners who host the program have a personal connection to someone affected by dementia, Easter said. Plans are underway to open additional cafes in other communities, he said.
The cafes are part of a larger goal of making Milwaukee County a “dementia-capable/friendly community” by 2020, Easter said.
Soon to launch is an initiative in which Milwaukee Public Libraries will become resource hubs with information about dementia, services, resources and clinics.
“The libraries will be navigators for families in the community, so they will be able to go into the library and (the libraries) will navigate them to the cafes, to support group services as well as getting them the supports they need to care for people with this disease,” Easter said.
Future plans include developing a partnership between Milwaukee County and Uber to train drivers to transport dementia clients, caregivers and seniors around the county, and to train local businesses to become more dementia-friendly, Easter said.