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Senior Spectrum Newspaper
November 2018
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This 'n That
by Anne Vargas
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The Open Door Café 

Anne Vargas
Anne Vargas
The Open Door Café 

My friend has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I wish I could say she is the only person I know who is dealing with it, (or one of the many other forms of dementia) but this insidious disease is affecting and altering the lives of more and more people, either as the victim or as the caregiver. No doubt readers of this column are witnessing or experiencing this as well, either from afar or in close proximity.

The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life and accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.

“There are only four kinds
of people in the world:
Those who have been caregivers.
Those who are currently caregivers.
Those who will be caregivers,
& those who will need a caregiver.”

Roslyn Carter

The greatest known risk factor is simply aging, and the majority of people with Alzheimer's are 65 and older. But Alzheimer's is not just a disease of old age. 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger onset Alzheimer’s disease (also known as early-onset Alzheimer’s).

Support is crucial

Support is crucial

Support is essential for everyone involved; the victim as well as the caregiver (usually, spouse or family member) who suffers equally in a different way. In both instances it can be very lonely and sometimes hard to find someone to confide in who appreciates and understands what life has now become.

Remember

We are all healers of each other. Dr. David Spiegel, Chair of Psychiatry at Stanford University, conducted a study, putting people together in a support group, discovering that some participants lived twice as long as those not part of it. When asked what took place in those groups he said nothing big, no deep psychological stuff, people just cared about each other. The reality is that healing happens between people.

Here in Reno, The Sanford Center for Aging received a grant to establish a Dementia Friendly Washoe County Action Project, part of Dementia Friendly America. As one of its actions the committee has undertaken the establishment of the OpenDoor Café. Its purpose is to be a gathering place for people living with any type of dementia and their loved ones, or anyone who has an interest in being there.

The intent is to provide a time and place to relax, have fun, socialize and develop a network of mutual peer support, all within a welcoming environment. Meetings are held on the third Thursday of every month from 2 until 3:15 p.m. at the Lake Mansion, 50 Court Street, on the corner of Arlington and Court streets, just north of Midtown. The next meeting will be on November 15. I plan to attend because when I was asked to write an article about The OpenDoor Café, I went to the October meeting in order to learn a bit more about it. I was touched by the warmth with which I was greeted and by the support everyone demonstrated to everyone else. It was simply social, which was a delightful change from other meetings, and AmeriCorps volunteers were overseeing the refreshment table.

2 caregivers

I moved around the room from table to table to visit, which gave me a chance to listen to people as they shared their stories and concerns with those who understood all too well. Two women voluntarily told me how they had come to be diagnosed and how they felt about that. Another woman told me how much it means to her to be able to come to the Café because it’s a place where she can relax, knowing she is with people who recognize and under stand what she is dealing with.

It’s sometimes hard for others to know what to say or do, which makes everyone uncomfortable. So another goal of the committee and the Café is to erase any stigma associated with dementia and bring awareness and acceptance to the community. Like so many other things, it’s a disease that any one of us could encounter personally. How comforting to know there is a place where one can easily reach out and connect with others.

For more information, contact: Cassandra at (775) 682-9444 or via email: TheOpenDoorCafe.DFWC@gmail.com. Or just come to the meeting.

There are a number of meaningful poems about dementia; this is one of my favorites:

If I get dementia...

by Rachel Wonderlin

If I get dementia, I want my friends and family to embrace my reality.

If I think my spouse is still alive or if I think we’re visiting my parents for dinner, let me believe those things. I’ll be much happier for it.

If I get dementia, I don’t want to be treated like a child. Talk to me like the adult that I am.

If I dementia, I still want to enjoy the things I’ve always enjoyed. Help me find a way to exercise, read and visit with friends.

If I get dementia, ask me to tell you a story from my past.

If I get dementia, and I become agitated take the time to figure out what is bothering me.

If I get dementia, treat me the way you would want to be treated.

If I get dementia, make sure there are plenty of snacks for me in the house.

Even now, if I don’t eat I get angry and if I have dementia I may have trouble explaining what I need.

If I get dementia, don’t talk about me is if I’m not in the room.

If I get dementia, don’t feel guilty if you cannot care for me 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It’s not your fault and you’ve done your best. Find someone who can help you or choose a great new place for me to live.

If I get dementia, and I live in a dementia care community, please visit me often.

If I get dementia, don’t get frustrated if I mix names, events, or places. Take a deep breath. It’s not my fault.

If I get dementia, make sure I always have my favorite music playing within ear shot.

If I get dementia, and I’d like to pick up items and carry them around, help me return those items to their original places.

If I get dementia, don’t exclude me from parties and family gatherings.

If I get dementia, know that I still like receiving hugs and handshakes.

If I get dementia, remember that I am still the person you know and love.