MU hosts region’s first dementia cafe
HUNTINGTON — A cup of coffee and some live music makes for a simple, cozy afternoon out for anyone.
But it can mean the world for someone living with dementia.
Marshall University opened its Sweet Times Cafe for the first time Friday at Huntington’s Kitchen in downtown Huntington — the first “dementia cafe” in the region. The free event is organized and sponsored by Marshall Health and Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.
“It’s an extremely under-served need, and in this community, something like this did not exist,” explained Dr. Shirley Neitch, a geriatrician at Marshall Health and professor director of the Maier Institute for Excellence in Prescribing for Elders with Dementia at the Joan C. Edwards School
“There are already a number of people who are trying to provide different ways for folks with dementia to be able to do something besides sit at home all day, but this is unique in that it’s a social situation.”
Coffee and light refreshments were severed in a setting mimicking a typical coffeehouse. Guests and their caretakers were free to come, go and tend to their needs without fear of judgment. Light live music filled the room, and a local quilter shared her work with guests.
Dementia cafes were originally developed in the United Kingdom and since spread worldwide, with around 300 currently operating in the United States.
The idea is to provide social opportunities with a familiar theme, often mimicking restaurants or cafes, staffed by volunteers sensitive to their needs.
It’s not akin to adult day care, but rather providing mature, real social experiences for those for whom simply getting out is easier said than done.
The first event drew a good crowd, but not a huge crowd — fine for the first time, Neitch said.
“We think this is a good way for us to get started, and the degree of interest that’s been expressed, folks are seeing that it fulfills a need,” she added.
A group of residents and caretakers from Bellaire at Devonshire, an assisted living facility in Scott Depot, West Virginia, made the trip into town for the event.
Resident Patti Neary, of Win-field, West Virginia, shared memories of her husband, their vacations to the mountains, and past visits to Huntington over coffee and cookies.
“Huntington is a very nice little town. It’s not exactly little, but it’s not exactly big either ” Neary said. “I think this is great. Marshall has done a lot for this area.”
The dementia cafe is funded through a $15,000 grant from the Bernard McDonough Foundation.
A second event is scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 22 at Huntington’s Kitchen. After that, dementia cafes are planned for the second and fourth Fridays of each month beginning in March.
Volunteer opportunities for servers, musicians and artists are available, and those looking for more information can call Marshall Internal Medicine at 304-691-1681.
For a photo gallery, go to www.herald-dispatch.com.