The Supper Club by Judith Graham, Washington Post


The Alzheimer’s supper club

By Judith Graham,September 09, 2013
  • Barbara Thompson, left, Linda Imholt, Candy Luis, Kappy Lundy and Hallie Caswell of the Wild Bunch, an Alzheimers support group, gathered for dinner in Portland, Ore. in June.
Barbara Thompson, left, Linda Imholt, Candy Luis, Kappy Lundy and Hallie… (MILT AMARAL/ )

For eight months the couples met at the local offices of the Alzheimer’s Association learning about dementia, a diagnosis that had turned their lives upside down. They cried together. laughed together, told each other things they hadn’t told anyone else. And became close friends.

Then this group of dementia patients and caregivers finished the class and it was time to move on, association staff said. Support groups were an option. But that didn’t seem right, meeting with strangers to talk about this devastating illness.

Also, most Alzheimer’s support groups are for caregivers, not for people living with dementia. And these couples wanted to stay together, with those giving the care side by side with those receiving it. So they started a supper club, humorously called the Wild Bunch. Once a month, the couples meet at one of their homes, casseroles and wine bottles in hand, to swap stories, trade jokes and have a good time.

Staying connected to other people and combating loneliness in the face of a disease that steals a person’s memory and ability to care for himself is important, doctors and dementia experts say. Research shows that the lack of social contact has adverse consequences on the health and well-being of patients and caregivers.

When my husband was ill, I realized that he needed to be wih people, so every week, I made sure that I invited friends over. Sometimes for coffee, at other times, when I had the energy, I invited them for a meal, making sure that there were two other couples besides us. My late husband did not speak much, so when he became quiet, at least the others could keep up a lively discussion. The supper club is a far better idea and I hope that the readers of this blog try it out.

I intend approaching the ‘powers that be’ and suggest this idea to them as I am so impressed with it. If only there had been one when I needed it.

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