MARQUETTE - The Marquette Alzheimer's Association and Marquette Adult Day Services have collaborated to bring the "Alzheimer's Cafe," an idea made popular in Europe, to the local community.
The cafe is an opportunity for people and families living with Alzheimer's disease and other types of memory loss to socialize in a safe, supportive space that they are free to chat, relax, listen to music and enjoy refreshments.
"A lot of times, the caregiver and the person with dementia end up becoming isolated and just staying at home," said Phil Puotinen, program coordinator for the Alzheimer's Association. "That can happen for a variety of reasons. This cafe gives them a place to just get together and have some social time and feel comfortable about being out.
A sign for the Alzheimer’s Cafe sits outside Marquette Adult Day Services on Nov. 13. The Alzheimer’s Cafe meets during the second Wednesday of every month at the east end of Messiah Lutheran Church, 305 W. Magnetic St., in Marquette. (Journal photo by Justin Marietti)
"It's really not a support group; it's just a place to relax. People think it's nice to be able to come here and be with other people that are experiencing the same thing."
Puotinen said the concept, sometimes referred to as "Memory Cafe," began in the Netherlands in 1997 and spread through the UK, eventually finding its way to the U.S.
"It's a very laid-back atmosphere," said Melissa Luttrell, executive director of Marquette Adult Day Services. "We're drinking coffee and chatting. It's just a social opportunity and there's no pressure to do anything."
She said that the more people talk about it, the more comfortable everyone involved becomes with what they are dealing with.
Jim DeCorte, 67, of Marquette, has attended both meetings the cafe has held so far. DeCorte has early-onset Alzheimer's disease, and he heard about the program while taking part in the YMCA's "Live Wise" program.
"It's a nice place to come because people are not judgmental," he said. "You find that a lot with older people that are mature enough to be comfortable with themselves. I would advise people to come, if for no other reason than to just find out what it is."
DeCorte was diagnosed nearly three years ago, and his mother and grandmother also had the disease.
"It's one of those things that sneaks up on you and grabs a hold of you," he said. "I don't have any problem at all with talking about it, because I've seen it with (my family).
"My mother was a very intelligent person, and I watched her degrade from the beautiful, wise woman that she was into what Alzheimer's did to her. But people need to know about it because it's a part of life."
Both Puotinen and Luttrell added that the meetings are not just designated to those with Alzheimer's disease or their caregivers, but also to anyone interested in learning more about the disease and its effects.
"I think it's also good to get out and realize that there are other people out there who are in the same circumstances," Puotinen said. "If you're just sitting at home, you may not realize that there are actually a lot of other people dealing with this."
The Alzheimer's Cafe will hold its next meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at Marquette Adult Day Services, which is located at the east end of the Messiah Lutheran Church at 305 W. Magnetic St. For more information, call 906-226-2142 or 906-228-3910.
Justin Marietti can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 245.