There’s a new place for those suffering from dementia to gather with their families and friends. It’s called the Memory Cafe in Windsor, Ontario, and it’s providing a safe and welcoming space for those affected by dementia.
“It’s safe in the sense that there is no pressure,” says Sally Bennett Olczak, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Winsdor and Essex County, the group behind the new initiative, housed at the Ojibway Nature Centre in Windsor. “You are not in a doctor’s office; you are not getting a diagnosis; nobody’s looking at you and saying ‘that’s a person with dementia.’”
As reported in the Windsor Star, the idea for the Memory Cafe came from a similar project first established in the Netherlands in 1997. Already, people are enjoying the new space, such as Betty Marleau whose husband Len has recently been diagnosed with dementia. “They have meetings for the caregivers and programs for those with dementia,” says Marleau. “But this is nice because we can both come here together. It’s great for him to mingle with other people as well as myself.”
The Caesars Windsor casino has made a donation of $10,000 towards wellness programs for the region’s Alzheimer Society donation and the cafe has seen members of the Windsor Fire Services volunteering as servers.
There are already five Memory Cafes in New Brunswick.
About 7,100 people in Windsor-Essex County suffer from dementia. Across the country, an estimated 564,000 Canadians live with the disability, 16,000 of whom are under the age of 65.
The social as well as health care costs are high for dementia – an umbrella term for diseases such as Alzheimer’s which cause progressive brain damage, memory loss and mood disorders. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, dementia represents an annual cost of $10.4 billion to Canadians, with home care and long-term care being the largest contributors to the figure. The Alzheimer’s Society states that within 15 years, the number of Canadians living with dementia will rise to 937,000.
Many in Canada are currently calling for a national strategy on dementia, with Conservative MP Rob Nicholson having introduced a private member’s bill on the topic earlier this year. “I am, in many ways, no different than millions of other Canadians who are either related to or know somebody that has (Alzheimer’s),” said Nicholson. “This is not a partisan thing.”
The move has been supported by the Alzheimer Society who have recommended the creation of a government funded arms-length body to oversee the national strategy. “A national dementia strategy would help overcome the growing crisis in dementia care by coordinating all national efforts in Alzheimer’s research, clinical care, institutional, and home- and community-based programs.”
Last week, Canadians marked World Alzheimer’s Day by sharing stories and coming together to raise awareness about the devastation caused by the disease. Health Minister Jane Philpott commemorated the day by stating that Alzheimer’s disease is “close to the hearts” of many in Canada. “Addressing the significant public health challenge posed by dementia requires cooperation between all levels of government, and with other sectors,” said Philpott in a statement.