November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and this fall the Spokane County Library District is partnering with Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington to provide programs related to dementia and memory loss.
Librarian Corrine Wilson said libraries are an ideal place to host this kind of programming.
“There’s so much stigma around dementia, but there’s no stigma in hanging out at the library.”
The collaboration with Aging and Long Term Care allows the library to tap into local experts.
Anessa Boyer, planning coordinator for the organization is facilitating an upcoming Dementia Friends information session.
“Dementia Friends is an international program,” she said. “The presentation offers basic information for anybody interacting with someone with dementia.”
It’s important to note there is a difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s. While dementia is a general term, Alzheimer’s disease is a specific brain disease. It is marked by symptoms of dementia that gradually worsen over time.
“Our goal is to create a community where people who have dementia can feel comfortable,” Boyer said. “It takes someone with dementia longer to process. It’s important to speak slowly and be patient.”
Teri Koski, the agency’s dementia resource catalyst, said her upcoming presentation focuses on dementia-caused changes in the brain.
“It’s open to anyone who wants to learn more about memory loss,” she said. “Our organization wants to support those who are experiencing dementia so they can stay in their homes longer and have a better quality of life. “
Wilson said libraries provide a safe, accessible and familiar place for those dealing with memory loss, as well as their caregivers. That’s why they decided to host Memory Cafes each Tuesday through November at the North Spokane Library.
“Dementia can be very isolating, whether you have it or are caring for others with it,” said Wilson. “Isolation increases its progression. Memory Cafes offer a low-stakes opportunity for folks with any form or stage of dementia and their caregivers to socialize with others.”
Library staffer Don Nelson hosts the cafes. Nelson cared for his mother during her journey with dementia and creates a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere for guests to build new support networks.
Wilson said light refreshments are served and programming has included Sit and Be Fit type stretches as well as a guitarist who took audience requests.
“Music is one of the last things to leave your brain,” she said. “We want to show people life can go on with dementia.”
She noted the cafes will pause during the holidays but resume again in January.
According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, someone in the world develops dementia every three seconds. Currently, more than 55 million people worldwide live with dementia and this number will almost double every 20 years.
“If you don’t know someone with Alzheimer’s, you will in the future,” Koski said. “Our goal is to make Spokane a dementia-friendly community.”
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