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June 18, 2013

Cafe is just for those dealing with Alzheimer's

ATKINSON — There are good days and bad days for Len.

Some days, things go well and he feels optimistic. On other days, he doesn’t know how much longer he can handle it.

Len spends every day with his wife as she battles recently diagnosed dementia. Since the diagnosis, Len has been looking anywhere for support.

“Since I learned she had it, I didn’t know what to do or where to go,” he said.

Then he saw an advertisement at his barbershop for the Alzheimer’s Cafe and decided to give it a shot.

The cafe was an idea generated by three caregivers from Right at Home in-house assistance in Plaistow. The event is for people living with forms of dementia and their care partners. The idea is to meet other people going through the same thing.

“We just don’t want people to feel isolated,” said Elaine Lawrence, one of the founders of the program. “We want to be here to lend support and give ideas to each other.”

Yesterday, Len and two other men sat around a table at Atkinson Country Club and spoke for an hour about taking care of their wives. The men did not want their last names used due to privacy concerns.

“They want to protect their loved ones,” Lawrence said. “There’s also a stigma to it. I think people still equate it to mental illness, which it isn’t at all.”

Len said he couldn’t imagine how tough it would be to watch his wife struggle.

“It’s not like she doesn’t know what’s going on,” he said. “She knows.”

Len listened to stories from Luis, whose wife has been living with dementia for more than 20 years. Luis eventually had to leave his job in order to care for her. She has been living in a nursing home for the last six years.

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