A café in Coachella Valley has found a creative way to welcome people living with dementia, along with those that love and care for them, into a local restaurant. Every month, a reserved section of a P.F. Chang’s is transformed into a safe space known as a “Dementia Café.” Anyone who is currently living with dementia or cares for someone who is memory impaired is invited to gather to share their common journey in a familiar place.

While the Dementia Café concept isn’t entirely new, it is a growing trend in response to the large numbers of new dementia and Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses each year. Also called “Memory Cafés,” they are frequently popping up around the nation, with several located in California.

The Coachella Valley group, called “Dementia-Friendly Coachella Valley,” launched the monthly meetups several years ago with the primary goal of removing the stigma that is still associated with dementia while providing a safe and comfortable space to socialize and connect in. Attendees have the option of dining from a happy hour menu, but the main focus is on the social aspect.

In a recent interview with The Desert Sun, one of the founders of the group, said:

“One of the key reasons we wanted to do this is that we all remember when nobody would say the word ‘cancer’ out loud. And now, people talk very openly about cancer, and we have lots of ways to deal with cancer and there’s no longer a stigma attached to that word. We wanted to try and bring about the same thing here in the valley — to take the stigma away from the word ‘dementia.’”

Creating welcoming environments where the memory impaired feel safe, loved and comfortable is so important because, when someone is experiencing dementia symptoms, new or unfamiliar situations can be extremely uncomfortable and even terrifying. While we don’t have a cure yet, we do have the ability to join together to create joyful daily experiences for and enhance the lives of those living with dementia.

That is why I have I have launched a campaign centered around dementia awareness. Part of the campaign is certifying places like care facilities and restaurants as “Dementia-Aware Safe Spaces.” I hope you’ll join me in this important mission.

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