Local Luncheon Group Helps Memory Issues

They recently found each other on the LinkedIn professional social media site and through their shared interest in helping people with dementia, two area healthcare professionals decided to volunteer their time to start a free Memory Café in Gulfport.

“We are very happy the café is successful and we are building the program as we can,” said Jane Ogilivie, LPN and elder care issue consultant for Senior Solutions of Pinellas County. She works with Cate McCarty, of Dr. Cate Dementia Coach in Largo, on the local grassroots project to create engaging programs for those living with dementia and their caregivers.

McCarty has a doctorate degree in aging studies.

About 20 people gather on the third Monday of each month from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Neptune’s Grill, 5501 Shore Blvd. S. A simplified lunch menu is available to make ordering and purchases easier.

The meeting consists of couples – people with dementia and their in-home, full-time caregiver, said Ogilivie. Some already know each other while others meet during the lunchtime program.

“They become a little support system for each other so between meetings, if they need someone to talk to, they can vent their frustration about what their husband or wife is doing because of dementia,” she said. “This is the kind of thing that happens as a result of our get-togethers.”

There is also an educational component.

“We don’t overdose on education, but we do answer questions about dementia,” said Ogilivie.

The free-flowing meetings also involve a travel component where participants go on virtual vacations to other states and even foreign countries.

In July, they will be in Sweden because many who attend have Scandinavian ancestry, she said. They’re planning on doing different regions in Europe then other continents by December.

One of the engaging activities that stimulate cognitive abilities involves the identification of items that may or may not be obvious things related to each trip.

“I identify 20 things,” she said. “I type them out, cut them up and put them in a box. Everybody takes one. Then, we go around the table and each person reads the item they have chosen and decides whether or not they would take that item on vacation. It gives you a little information about where that person is cognitively.”

The main goals of the meetings are socialization, to raise awareness of dementia in the local community by gathering in a restaurant everyone goes to, and to foster a supportive tool for people with dementia and their caregivers, she said.

“It’s kind of like cancer. You don’t even want to say the word or talk about it,” said Ogilivie. “It’s that devastating. It’s a family disease because it permeates the family’s routine. Everything changes when somebody has dementia in your family. Nothing is ever the same anymore.”

The worldwide Memory Café movement was started in the United Kingdom in January of 2012 by people who saw the need to create a dementia-friendly resort, according to a website Purple Angel purpleangel-global.com/about.html.

One of the goals of Purple Angel is to assist business owners in understanding the needs of people who suffer from dementia, said Ogilivie. “So that when people with dementia come into a shop, a grocery store, a bank or restaurant, store owners and employees can have a better understanding of what’s going on” and how to facilitate situations like when “people no longer know how to count out their own money.”

Coaching business owners and their staff about how to serve customers with dementia is a big part of what Ogilivie and McCarty want to do in the future on a local level.

If you, a friend or loved one suffers with memory problems, or you have been recently diagnosed with dementia, you can get involved in these local monthly lunchtime meetings by making a reservation. Contact Ogilivie via email at sensol@seniorsmile.com or call 727-327-0167. The next meeting is Monday, July 17.

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