Our Moment Cafe

Our Moment Cafe members Richard and Carolyn Vena, of the Village of Summerhill, dance to music played by member Paul Collins, of the Village of Country Club Hills, at the Chula Vista Recreation Center in August.

Villages couple Joan Bender and Dick Boyden know how important it is for those with dementia and their caregivers to socialize.

It is one of the reasons they started Our Moment Cafe, a support group for Alzheimer's caregivers and their loved ones.

"The memory cafe is a place for learning, support and social engagement," said Bender, of the Village of Osceola Hills. "It's a place to socialize with others going through the same experiences."

Every day, millions of Americans provide essential care and medical assistance to their loved ones. These acts of love, commitment and compassion give their family members the support they need to stay in their homes. This has been especially true throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, during which Americans of all ages have made substantial sacrifices to keep loved ones safe and healthy.

But the caregiving crisis, already an issue before the pandemic, continues to grow.

While rewarding, caregiving can also lead to significant physical, mental, emotional and financial challenges, according to a recent report by Associated Press. COVID-19 has accelerated this crisis, forcing many in "the sandwich generation" to serve as caregivers for their children and their parents. Stressors can include finances or depression, with deep emotions that can lead to malaise.

The Office on Women's Health with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said stress from caregiving is common.

"Women especially are at risk for the harmful health effects of caregiver stress, which may include depression or anxiety," the office said in a report.

Recommendations include accessing resources such as support groups in order to help reduce stress and care for loved ones.

Bender said she is glad they are able to continue the memory cafes as it gives the community a resource needed by caregivers.

"We have seen residents come in and enjoy just a few moments of time with others in the same situation," she said. "It really makes a difference to know we can all work together helping one another."

During President Joe Biden's campaign, he highlighted the importance of caregiving.

"Even before the pandemic, our country was experiencing a caregiving crisis," he said in one of his campaign speeches from 2020. "Some care needs were going untended while other care needs were filled by Americans serving as unpaid caregivers lacking the financial support or respite care they needed, and sometimes putting their careers on hold. Often, families made caregiving decisions that came with great financial, professional, physical and emotional costs."

Under his proposed plan, Biden seeks to increase child care facilities and offer incentives to caregivers who are still in the workforce.

In addition to Our Moment Cafe, other support groups also are lending a hand to members. From stroke support to Parkinson's disease, all of these groups continue to get caregivers through the tough times.

"We are always available to lend a hand to those in the community needing help," said Anne Bosler, of the Village of Hadley, founder of Caring Neighbors. "We know times have been difficult and it makes us feel good to know if someone needs us, we are here to help."

Senior writer Andrea Davis can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5374, or andrea.davis@thevillagesmedia.com.