April 30, 2015 | By: Katie Pratt
Hodgenville, Ky.

Four couples recently sat around a table at a local church sharing snacks and stories of their favorite springtime activities, because after all, memories are too precious to lose.

While all this may sound trivial to some, to these couples memories are everything because one spouse has been diagnosed with a form of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Sharing memories through Memory Café gives them an outlet to socialize and support and receive support from others going down the same road.

Larue County couple Paul and Sarah Hornback started the group eight months ago with help from The Alzheimer’s Association in Louisville. After Paul Hornback was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s the couple began attending the association’s support group meetings in Louisville, but they longed for a shorter drive and the ability to form a close-knit group with other participants closer to home.

Paul Hornback began to research Alzheimer’s programs and decided on a model that focused more on memory sharing and less on guest speakers. He approached the Louisville association, which at the time had one of the few support groups in the state, about starting a group in Hodgenville. About eight months ago, he and his wife started Memory Café.

“For people in this area, coming to this meeting is like a five- or 10-minute drive,” he said. “That’s so much easier. When you drive an hour to an hour and a half for a meeting, you’re worn out by the time you get there.”

From there, he went looking for local organizations to partner with including the local office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, county health department and Hodgenville United Methodist Church.

Larue County family and consumer sciences extension agent Theresa Howard promotes the group to her Extension Homemaker clubs and offers additional health-related information about Alzheimer’s disease to the general public through partnerships with The Alzheimer’s Association. She knows there is a strong interest in the county, as all of the programs she has hosted have been well attended.

Larue Countians are not alone. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 11 percent of Kentuckians over the age of 65 have some stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease was the sixth leading cause of death in the state in 2012, claiming the lives of more than 1,400 individuals.

The group in Larue County meets once a month. Topics focus on memory sharing and are moderated by a former nursing home employee. They also occasionally weave physical activity into the program. Couples are encouraged to participate as much or as little as they want. A nurse is available at most meetings to answer any health-related questions.

Most participants agreed that the ability to leave their house and come to a safe environment with friendly, understanding individuals benefited both the person with Alzheimer’s and their spouse. Many said they now consider the other support group members friends and family.

“I feel safe here with him,” said Janet Bradley of her husband Hershel. “I don’t have to worry if he says the wrong thing. We’re in the right place with people who understand.”

Pat Dobbs has been coming with her husband Elwyn since January, and they both have enjoyed the relationships they have developed with group members.

“You feel the acceptance here,” she said. “It’s very difficult for him to get around, and there is always help here.”

Sarah Hornback said fostering socialization for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers is one of the group’s goals. Socialization is considered one of the best practices for individuals to try to stay ahead of the disease, because after all, a memory is too precious to lose.

Contact: 

Theresa Howard, 270-358-3401