Cafe helps hold on to the memories

Helps offered caregivers, people with Alzheimer’s

By Kasey Brammell, Special to Independent
Posted 11/17/19

Help with caregivers and people with Alzheimer’s is now available at the Surprise Memory Cafe. It’s part of the Surprise’s designation as a “Dementia Friendly” city.

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Cafe helps hold on to the memories

Helps offered caregivers, people with Alzheimer’s


A new program in Surprise, called the Memory Cafe, provides an opportunity for caregivers and patients to receive education and support for dementia and other memory-loss disorders. 

During the Memory Cafe, caregivers receive education and patients with memory loss participate in life enrichment groups as well as socialize with people with similar experiences.

At a City Council meeting Sept. 17, Mayor Skip Hall declared Surprise a “Dementia Friendly” city, joining Tempe. 

During the meeting, Mr. Hall said that the City of Surprise, in partnership with local care facilities, is committed to providing education and support as a dementia-friendly city due to the increasing cases of Alzhiemer’s disease in Arizona.

The Dementia Friends is a global initiative started in the U.K. that aims to increase education and change the way people think and talk about cognitive disorders like dementia, according to their website. 

Lori Nisson, the director of family and community services at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, said that dementia-friendly communities provide education opportunities and support groups for patients and their caregivers.

Ms. Nisson said that after seeing success in Tempe with the program, she wanted to bring something to the West Valley.

Ms. Nisson described the Memory Cafe as the “gem” of Dementia Friends. She said that the Cafes can allow for people to gather with those like-minded to them and feel a sense of community and connection.

In order to make the program more successful, Ms. Nisson said that they decided to have more partnerships in Surprise than they started with in Tempe in order to make the Cafe better known throughout the community. 

As a result of partnering with five organizations, the first Memory Cafe session in Surprise had a turnout of more than 45 people.

Surprise has structured its Memory Cafe based off of the one Tempe started in 2016 after its program proved effective within the community.

Jane Gerlica, an employee at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, said that its Memory Cafe started with a small group of six people and it has grown to about 60 people every week. 

Recently, Tempe’s program has received support from the Tempe community council. Ms. Gerlica said that this is the first time the community council has directly supported and reached out into the community. She said the support is an indicator of growth.

Along with the Memory Cafe, Dementia Friends holds educational sessions around the state where people can learn about memory-loss disorders and how they personally can help locally within their own communities. 

Ms. Nisson said there have been cities around Arizona that have started their own support and education programs that are similar to the Memory Cafe and Tucson has recently taken the first steps to becoming a new dementia friendly city. 

The Banner Alzheimer’s Institute provides many other resources for those with memory-loss disorders. 

Ms. Nisson said that once someone has been properly diagnosed, they can meet with one of the social workers available to them. From there, they are given resources so that they are able to have a better quality of life. 

“I’ve had people come up to me and they tell me that without this, they wouldn’t know what to do,” Ms. Gerlica said. “They see it as a lifeline.”

Editor’s Note: Kasey Brammell is a student at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.