Canada Joins the Alzheimer's Café Scene
Antigonish, Nova Scotia has hosted the opening of the first Alzheimer’s Café in Canada.
The purpose of an “Alzheimer’s Café” is to unite those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, their caregivers, and the general public in an informal setting that resembles a café (complete with food, drink, and entertainment) rather than an institutional setting. The objective is to move away from a traditional “support group” model and towards interactions that are more social in nature.
The reason behind Alzheimer’s cafés is a good one. A big issue that arises with those suffering from dementia is that they become housebound and secluded from the social world. This can occur for a variety of reasons – they might have difficulty with mobility, they may be embarrassed about their condition, or they might be fearful of leaving the house.
Over time, the isolation can start to spiral (as an individual becomes more isolated he becomes less and less likely to voluntarily leave his home) – and it can accelerate mental decline.
Openly discussing dementia can be difficult because of the social stigma that surrounds the disease. An objective of Alzheimer cafés is to allow people to openly discuss their experiences with dementia (whether as someone who suffers from the disease or as someone who instead is a relative or caregiver of someone who is a sufferer).
The idea for Alzheimer cafés originated from Dr. Bere Miesen, a Dutch psychiatrist, in 1997; they have since become ubiquitous in the Netherlands. The concept has also become popular elsewhere in Europe – the first café of this type opened in the United Kingdom more than ten years ago and it has apparently also gained ground in the United States.
The idea has been spearheaded in Canada by Danielle Martensson, a nursing student at St. Francis Xavier University. The group has had two events in Antigonish since January and plans its official opening next month.