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Internationally renowned expert to speak at Keremeos memory cafe

The upcoming cafe on Dec. 5 will be hosted at Row Fourteen in Cawston
Former care aide Christine Thelker has documented her journey of living with dementia in the pages of her book For This I Am Grateful: Living With Dementia. Thelker will be speaking at the upcoming Cawston memory cafe on Dec. 5. (Roger Knox - Black Press)

Following the success of earlier cafes in the region, Medical Arts Health Research will be hosting another Memory Cafe in Cawston on Dec. 5.

The cafes are part of pilot program towards making more communities dementia friendly by advancing the inclusion, education and support for those with memory loss, dementia and their caregivers.

The upcoming cafe at the Row 14 Restaurant will feature internationally recognized speaker and Dementia Alliance International partner Christine Thelker.

“I’m hoping to have a very engaged conversation about what it’s like to live with dementia, rather than me just talking or giving a speech,” Thelker told the Review. “I live with dementia, so I know what it’s like to get the diagnosis and then finding your way and how to still live and have a productive life.”

Thelker has been a member of the board of the Dementia Alliance International, spoken at the United Nations in New York, spoken at the Alzheimer’s Disease International Conference in Chicago and has received the Doctor Richard Taylor Global Award for her advocacy work on dementia. She has documented her journey of living with dementia in the pages of her book For This I Am Grateful: Living With Dementia.

Being able to share her story and to listen and hear from other people living in a similar situation is a vitally important task that the cafes offer, similar to how there are support groups for people who live or have experiences with cancer, she said.

“To talk to people who are walking that journey, whether they’re just starting it or whether they’ve been living with it for a number of years, to be able to talk openly and honestly about how it feels, it helps people to be able to prepare and what to kind of expect,” said Thelker.

Those conversations can cover a wide range of topics, from different things people can do to help themselves, to different resources that are available that may not be common knowledge, and to grow the understanding of what dementia is and how it can affect people.

READ MORE: Memory Cafes coming to Cawston and Keremeos

Medical Arts Health Research has put on three cafes in the Similkameen so far in 2023, one in January, one in February, and the most recent in September had 65 people attend.

In addition to grants that allowed the earlier cafes to go forward, the group has received sponsorships and support from local small businesses.

“We’re pulling it all together because that resonates with community awareness and largely, to be very honest, these donations are coming from people who’ve experienced the dementia journey themselves,” Barb Stewart told RDOS directors on Nov. 16. “The feedback from the first three memory cafes tell us that people leave the memory cafe feeling uplifted and connected.”

The upcoming cafe on December 5 runs from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and also includes live music.

The cafe is free and participation is encouraged, both from community members who have dementia and those who are caring for their loved ones with dementia in their own homes in the community.

Once the pilot program wraps up, after it was already extended with two additional cafes, the plan is to review the feedback and turnout to find out what worked best and where future cafes could go.

Memory cafes were originally created in the Netherlands in the 1990s as a way of breaking down the stigma that many with dementia face. They have since spread, and are often included in efforts to make more dementia-friendly communities. The goal is to have individuals with dementia able to live well in communities that offer understanding and support for them and their caregivers.

Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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