Activities for people with dementia, support for caregivers at Memory Café

Minnetonka Memory Cafe

A monthly social program at Minnetonka Community Center creates a community for people who have dementia, and their caregivers. The program is a partnership between Hennepin County librarians, artists from the Minnetonka Center for the Arts and senior services specialists from the City of Minnetonka.

The program, which launched in December, is part of the City of Minnetonka’s work to earn designation through the national Dementia Friendly Communities campaign. Other Hennepin County libraries have hosted events for people with dementia and their families; this one is unique because of its structure, and the depth and breadth of the partnership that makes it possible.

Books and events

The library purchased four sets of books about dementia, including educational, memoir and kids’ books. They are available to borrow at Minnetonka and Ridgedale libraries, at the monthly events at the Minnetonka Community Center and at the Ridgedale YMCA, which also hosts bimonthly trainings.

“This program ties in with what the library is interested in, in terms of engaging patrons outside of the building,” said Sherry Anderson, a Hennepin County Library service manager. The gatherings, she said, are an opportunity to reach a group that can sometimes find a big library building overwhelming. “It’s a little bit calmer, more relaxed and manageable setting.”

The program is funded by a grant from the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants. In recent months, participants have created paintings inspired by their hands and pottery bowls that teachers took back to fire in the arts center’s kiln. The March art activity began with a reading of spring-themed poetry.

Springtime art

At a gathering on the first day of spring 17 people – mostly married couples – created paintings of bare- trees from pools of ink that they blew through straws, then decorated with bright watercolor leaves and flowers.

Hennepin County librarians stationed themselves on one side of the room with a display featuring books that help explain dementia to kids, as well as a curated list of books for caregivers and others.

Artist Debra Greenblatt, who attended the program with her husband, Paul, said she was drawn to the arts side of the program.

“I was excited to see paintbrushes on the flyer,” she said. “I said, ‘ooh, I’ll get to paint’ – and I have!”

Paul has joined in during the art sessions, which he said have been “superb” for Debra. But he and the other caregivers eventually stepped out for a 45-minute support session. He said he has left sessions with an armload of books, and this time brought his own new recommendation, a book by G. Allen Power, which he discovered at a conference.

Looking forward

Anderson is looking for other ways the library can reach families experiencing dementia, with music programming or maybe a book club. The key is to find activities and discussions in which participants can draw from a lifetime of experiences and memories. Those are more accessible to people with dementia than the contents of a book they just read.

“We’ll be looking at ways of getting them involved in an activity,” she said, “something that would get them engaged and trigger their memories and experiences.”

The next Memory Café in Minnetonka is on Tuesday, April 17, 10-11:30 p.m., at Minnetonka Community Center, 14600 Minnetonka Boulevard.

Find Memory Café programs at other Hennepin County libraries.

Learn about Dementia Friends Trainings.

Explore programs for adults and seniors.