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Interfaith Caregivers opens monthly café in Blue Earth

Café helps build connections for caregivers and those with memory loss

October 7, 2018
Katie Mullaly - Register Staff Writer ( , Faribault County Register

There is a new cafe in Blue Earth.

The catch is, it's only open once a month, every third Tuesday of the month at 2 p.m., at Hope United Methodist Church, so you have to keep an eye out for it.

Coffee, snacks, music, and plenty of activities are in store for friends, family, caretakers, and anyone who is living with memory loss.

Article Photos

Interfaith’s Memory Café has already had its first event complete with painting, coffee, music, and fun. Above, two attendees enjoyed creating some imaginative artwork as they enjoyed the café.

Faribault County's Interfaith Caregivers have started an entirely new project in hopes of creating a supportive community for people with memory loss and their caregivers. It's called "Memory Cafe" and it's a concept that has been sweeping all of Minnesota by storm.

Dan Woodring and Donna Iliff of Interfaith Caregivers have been working on bringing this concept to the area for quite some time.

"We went up to a convention in the Twin Cities not too long ago on the topic of memory cafes," says Iliff. "We heard from caregivers and friends of those with different types of dementia, as well as football players who have suffered head injuries, too. That's when we knew we wanted to create something similar for our community."

Cities such as Mankato, St. Peter and other surrounding larger towns have memory cafes in their area and have shown great success with them. The folks at Interfaith Caregivers knew there was a growing number of people with memory loss and dementia in Faribault County and wanted to bring the opportunity and experience closer to home.

"The challenges of living with memory loss can sever social connection at a time when it may be needed most," said Woodring. "Memory cafes are one way people with memory loss and their caregivers are coming together to make new friendships and support each other."

"For those with dementia, like Alzheimer's or even Parkinson's, experience a loss of social connections whether it's due to a loss of social connections from friends or experience relationship changes with their children or spouses," says Iliff. "The cafe is meant to allow those folks to step back into those relationships and friendships in a fun, friendly, familiar environment for a few hours. The caregivers can step back and be their husband or wife or brother or sister again. We really want to help rebuild those social connections."

Those social connections are important to both caregivers and those living with memory loss because the memory care community is seeing that those who have social connections do not progress with their memory loss as rapidly.

"If you have someone with dementia and they are isolated, have very little social interaction, it can lead to a greater progression of the disease," says Iliff. "It's a hard rope to walk for caregivers because on one side, they want to be protective of their loved one. They don't want to confuse them or harm them, but on the other hand, trying to protect them from those confusing or frustrating social situations may be a hinderance as well. We're hoping to bridge that gap by creating a safe, supportive place to promote meaningful participation for both the carnegies and their loved one."

According to the Alzheimer's Association, nearly 60 percent of people with Alzheimer's live in their own homes and need support from families and community members.

There are about 91,000 Minnesotans age 65 and older living with Alzheimer's disease and the number is growing. That's one in nine people ages 65 and over who have Alzheimer's. That means there are at least 249,000 caregivers in Minnesota who are caring for family members with Alzheimer's and other dementias.

"We want to create a stigma-free zone," says Woodring. "What's ideal for us is that we don't think about the disease, we don't talk about the disease, and we are able to celebrate the rest of that person and who they are, who their caretakers are. We want this to be beneficial to caretakers who join us, as well. Support groups share information, ways to cope, things like that. This memory cafe is meant to focus on not worrying or talking about dementia. Just being ourselves and having a few hours of fun."

Caregivers often say that one of the hardest parts of dealing with dementia is the absence of the normal interactions they once had in a couple or parent/child relationship, says Woodring. Instead, these days become filled with difficult and tedious tasks. Memory cafes are a means of taking a break from that routine. More than anything, they aim to restore normalcy and fun to caregivers and their loved ones.

Interfaith Caregivers are emphasizing the importance of having a community that is friendly to those with different types of dementia.

"It's important for everyone to be aware of dementia. You could be at Juba's and see someone really struggling or being confused. That person may have known where the birdseed was for 20 years, and it's moved and now they're confused," says Woodring. "We want to create a community where anyone may be able to assist those people to have a dementia-friendly community."

Interfaith's next Memory Cafe will be on Oct. 16, at 2 p.m. at Hope UMC. Bring your friends and family to enjoy an afternoon of connection and fun.



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