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.”
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 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.
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.