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Memory Cafes offer companionship, resources and shared humor for caregivers

"Minding Our Elders" columnist Carol Bradley Bursack says the cafes provide socialization, understanding and more for people living with memory loss and their loved ones.

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Carol Bradley Bursack, "Minding Our Elders" columnist.
Contributed / Carol Bradley Bursack
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Dear readers: I’ve long been interested in Memory Cafes worldwide. Today we’ll explore our local version of this wonderful resource through the words of Deb Kaul, co-founder and executive director of Memory Cafe of the Red River Valley (MCRRV).

“Even though there are hundreds of Memory Cafes around the world, each of them is individually developed without any organizational structure or governance,” Kaul told me. Her passion is one of the driving forces that’s helped create this place where people living with dementia and their caregivers can find companionship with their peers, helpful resources and yes — humor and joy!

“Each Memory Cafe is unique,” Kaul said. “For example, Memory Cafe of the Red River Valley has its own building or 'home' with opportunities for our participants to meet several times every week. Our Memory Cafe is only for individuals living with memory loss and their loved ones, not housing personnel or medical professionals. We serve people living with memory loss for multiple medical reasons, not just Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia.

“For many if not most individuals living with dementia and their caregivers, life becomes very lonely, especially as the disease progresses,” Kaul continued. “Friends and family pull away, not because they are bad people but because they lack the education, role modeling and experience needed to engage comfortably with individuals living with memory loss.

“Additionally, many individuals living with the disease and their caregivers feel ill-equipped to deal with the many decisions, transitions and changes the disease will eventually introduce into their lives. As the disease progresses, these changes become very difficult, especially if you feel deserted and alone.

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Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver and a nationally-recognized presence in caregiver support. She's the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories,” a longtime newspaper columnist and host of her blog at mindingoureldersblogs.com. Carol's an introverted book nerd, so you won't see her mugging in viral videos, but you can easily reach her using the contact form at mindingourelders.com.

“I believe the three greatest gifts Memory Cafe offers people living with significant memory loss and their families are companionship, caregiving resources and moments of shared joy/humor. The newly established, deeply impactful and sustained friendships with others who are traveling a similar journey provide tangible evidence that you are not alone and that there are others who know and care about what is going on in your lives. Many times, during our conversations we find the ability to both cry and laugh together which is so healing… and we are able to share knowledge of community, books and other available caregiving resources,” Kaul said.

Readers, you’ll find further information about our local Memory Cafe online at www.MemoryCafeRRV.org. For those of you interested in the Memory Cafe concept who live outside of the Red River Valley, I'd suggest that you browse the MCRRV website for inspiration, but also search Memory Cafes worldwide: https://www.memorycafedirectory.com/ .

We’ll close with two of the many testimonials regarding Memory Cafe of the Red River Valley:

"I never realized how important socialization was until I came here. I need this. My husband needs this. It really makes all the difference." — Barbara.

"MCRRV helped us so much in the last five years. The information and resources, encouragement and support have been invaluable. I am so grateful for all you do for ALL OF US who have need of Memory Cafe. God bless you!" — Gail.

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached through the contact form on her website.

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver and a nationally-recognized presence in caregiver support. She's the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories,” a longtime newspaper columnist and host of her blog at mindingoureldersblogs.com. Carol's an introverted book nerd, so you won't see her mugging in viral videos, but you can easily reach her using the contact form at mindingourelders.com.
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