Local Alzheimer’s Nonprofit Receives Service Award

A local Alzheimer’s nonprofit group is being recognized for their amazing service to The Villages. Our Moment Café meets twice a month and provides entertainment for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and support for their caregivers. Last night they received the VHA’s Outstanding Volunteer Organization award. “I am so grateful for the help and support we have received here,” said Joan Bender. She and her husband Dick Boyden head the group, which has been in service since December 2019.

The concept of memory cafes began in Holland with a mission to provide a safe, comfortable, and engaging environment where people with memory care conditions can laugh and share their experiences with others travelling on the same path. Holland’s government funded the cafes. Here in the US the generosity of donors and passion of servants like Joan and Dick drive the cafes’ success. The focus is on the caregiver, who usually becomes secluded after his or her partner’s diagnosis.  There are 900 cafes in the US. Florida unfortunately has one of the nation’s highest instances of dementia, making the need for these cafes more pressing.

Joan and Dick are subject matter experts in the fields of dementia and caring for those who suffer from it. They both are certified dementia practitioners. There is a national council and an international council, both of whom issue certifications. Joan is also an RN, and she holds a Master’s degree. Dick holds a Master’s of Education. The couple moved to The Villages from Williamsburg, VA, where they founded and ran similar programs for over ten years. When they got to The Villages they got involved with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. They indicated to The Villages Recreation and Parks department their intention to open Our Moment Café. To their surprise the department gave them two! Since its inception in 2019 One Moment Café has improved the lives of 500 patients (and their 500 caregivers) in The Villages.

The group holds two “meetings” monthly. There are 30 members (15 patients and 15 caregivers) and between 5-7 volunteers at each event. This month’s entertainment will be provided by a magician specializing in card tricks. Next month will see April in Paris, where there will be plenty of music and dancing. The goal of Our Moment Café is for everyone to have fun and socialize. According to Dick, the left side of the brain in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients is the first to deteriorate. Therefore, caregivers must cater to the right side- which is the emotional and artistic side. Dick maintains that music and humor are the best ways to reach the right brain. Occasionally there are patients that don’t respond to positive stimuli. Dick shared a story about a patient who happened to be a Navy veteran. The man was on an aircraft carrier during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was very quiet and introverted. It took one special volunteer to get him out of his shell. In a testament to Divine Providence, the volunteer happened to be on the destroyer that escorted the patient’s carrier! Once the connection was made, the patient started opening up and started enjoying himself.

One Moment Café- its board and volunteers- is a wonderful group doing wonderful service to those in need. Two years ago an Orlando news station reported on One Moment Café. We are including a link to that story. If you would like to learn more about them please contact Joan at kjoanbender@gmail.com or Dick at dickboyden@gmail.com.