Caregivers can feel incredibly isolated at home alone with a spouse or other loved one whose cognitive abilities have deteriorated due to Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative disease. But there are ways to ease this isolation, and the loss of memory does not have to mean the loss of love or joy in the relationship between a caregiver and the one they care for. Memory cafés, an idea inspired by work in the Netherlands, give caregivers and patients together an enjoyable and safe space to enjoy each other’s company, connect with others in a similar situation, and feel less alone.
The Penn Memory Center (PMC) held monthly in-person gatherings for its Memory Café in 2019. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, families were at risk of feeling more isolated at home — but the memory café experience continued online to maintain and strengthen their connections. These virtual sessions will continue until it’s deemed safe to resume in person. It’s one of many PMC programs that have gone on virtually, or even expanded, during the pandemic, to provide respite to caregivers and support to older adults with memory loss, from classes in improv comedy, music and meditation, to fostering intergenerational relationships one-on-one through the Weekly Smile program, and more.
Note: The virtual Memory Café will take a summer hiatus in July and August 2021 and return in September.