Memory Café helps families struggling with Alzheimer’s

Pamela Lewis-Hoyt, 59, of Dorchester recalls receiving little support as a previous caregiver to her husband, who has since passed away from dementia. But for current caregivers, she says, there’s now a solution by the name of Memory Café.

“There is help out there,” said Lewis-Hoyt. “[Memory Café] is a way for people to have a shoulder to lean, or rather a shoulder to cry on.”

The first Memory café – spearheaded by Mayor Walsh along with the Elderly Commission’s Boston Alzheimer’s Initiative and the Grove Hall Center for Youth and Families - launched back in July as a support system for both Boston residents suffering from memory loss along with their families and caregivers.

“The hugest disconnect is that there are really a ton of resources [about Alzheimer’s] in the city of Boston, but the problem is that nobody knows about them,” said Patricia McCormack, an active leader of the Boston Alzheimer’s Initiative. “Now these people don’t have to struggle with it alone.”

The program has only grown since its early stages, says McCormack. The Café’s twofold mix of recreational activities and information sessions has attracted both those looking to learn more about disease and others seeking a sense of comradery.

“I didn’t realize how limiting it is for a person with Alzheimer’s,” said McCormack, noting that for many with the disease, going to places like the mall or a restaurant sometimes not an option.

But at Memory Café, opportunities are endless. Meetings take place monthly, on the first Monday of every month, and have previously included activities such as free art exercises with the Dot Art organization.

The I’m Still Here Foundation was present at the most recent meeting, showcasing movie clips from classic films like “Casablanca,” “To Serve with Love,” and “Stormy Weather.” The crowd of attendees loudly applauded during the famous dance scene by the Nicholas Brothers in “Stormy Weather,” and a few tears were shed from some “Casablanca” scenes, said McCormack.

“People talked about the memories that [these movies] generated, and it just was fabulous,” said McCormack.

The Boston Center for Youth and Families at Grove Hall Community Center has been a good fit to host these Cafes, according to the center’s Administrator Coordinator Aidee Pomales, especially after their recent transition to a senior community center back in early July.

[Memory Café] is definitely needed in the community,” said Pomales. “We got a lot of people just staying home in front of the TV and they just wanted a place where they go and they could socialize.”

According to McCormack, the positive reception has lead to talk of opening another Memory Café in West Roxbury, as well as a Spanish-speaking group.

“I just assume they’re going to keep getting bigger because there’s such a need out there,” said McCormack.

Since it’s launch, Memory Café has succeeded in easing the plight of those affected by a memory-loss disease throughout Boston, says McCormack.

“When you think you’re the only person in the world who’s going through this, the biggest relief in the world is to meet other people in the same boat,” McCormack said.

Memory Café takes place on the first Monday of every month, from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at the Grove Hall Center for Youth and Families.