This Friday from 2 to 5 p.m., the Peppers Estate care facility in collaboration with the Central Coast Alzheimer’s Association will host the state’s first Alzheimer’s Café — a meeting place where people with the disease can arrive at their leisure and share their thoughts and emotions with others, free of charge.
A growing trend in Europe, the practice is largely unheard of in the United States where only one recognized group exists in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For a disease that effects an estimated 5.4 million Americans, Alzheimer’s and dementia research and support organizations receive relatively little funding from charity; donation figures pale in comparison to other top diseases, such as AIDS and cancer.
The café movement in California was pioneered by David Sullins, owner and administrator of the Peppers Estate — a six-resident Montecito mansion for the elderly, complete with a redwood-planked, 3,000 square-foot ballroom. “I got the idea reading a magazine article and I realized how beneficial it could be toward Alzheimer’s patients,” Sullins said. “I have been impressed by the presence of it for awhile now in Europe, and it’s hardly here in America at all.”
The idea of a café-style get-together for Alzheimer’s patients was started in the Netherlands in 1990, where it has since gained traction and is now popular in Great Britain, Spain, Italy, and Belgium. “They say in the Netherlands there is one Alzheimer’s café within 9 km in any direction,” said Sullins.
Friday’s commencement event is hoped to be the first of many Alzheimer’s Café’s in Santa Barbara, with one to be held every month at the Peppers Estate. By providing a welcoming place for patients (as well as caregivers, family members, and professionals) to open up about their condition, the Alzheimer’s café hopes to draw “shut-ins” who may be embarrassed by the diagnosis to come find empathetic support from those who share their condition. “It is somewhere you can go if you have Alzheimer’s, and for some people it could be very cathartic. You can come to stop denying it and become comfortable,” said Sullins.
Cost-free with refreshments provided by Mission Villa Care, the café will be strictly casual, and will feature round table discussions without a formal speaker. “It is meant to be very open and unstructured; you can come and go,” said Sullins.
The Peppers Estate is located on 430 Hot Springs Road in Montecito, and parking will be available nearby at Mount Carmel Church. The gathering is open to the public, with no reservation necessary.