Frequently, Darien Library staff members have observed caregivers and those in their care coming into the library.

“The caregivers are very conscious that the person they’re with doesn’t make any noise,” said Brittany Netherton, head of knowledge and learning services at the library.

If the loved one starts to make noise or get anxious, “they would disappear,” said Colleen Wood, knowledge and learning services assistant.

“We want them to feel welcome here,” said Netherton, which is what inspired the library to create its first ever Caregiver Cafe.

The Caregiver Cafe, which is free, is a yearlong program that offers respite to caregivers. Caregivers can bring the person in their care with them, to either join in activities with the caregiver or take part in other activities.

The cafe will meet the second Wednesday of every month, from 3-4 p.m. The first meeting is Wednesday, Oct. 9, and will be in the library’s tech center.

To register or find out more information, visit darienlibrary.org/caregiver-cafe, call 203-655-1234, or email the reference desk at askus@darienlibrary.org.

There is a maximum capacity of 20 for the program. While only Darien residents may sign up, by the Monday prior to each cafe, if there are still spots open, anyone is welcome to fill them.

Activities and themes

Each month, the program provides refreshments, time to socialize, and games and activities. There will also be books that are appropriate for those with cognitive impairments.

Each month, the cafe will have a different theme. The first cafe will be a spa day, where a therapist will give hand massages. There will also be a therapy dog on hand.

Future themes include taking a safari in virtual reality and hearing a talk from an Alzheimer’s expert on coping with dementia. There will also be planting and painting workshops.

Program goal

“The cafe is for people who don’t have an opportunity to get out and get respite because they are taking care of a family member,” Wood said.

She added that the caregivers will have a chance to mingle with one another “while enjoying the activities that we prepared in the relaxed environment,” Wood added.

With this program, “We want caregivers to know they can come in with their loved ones at any time and we’ll be accepting of them,” Netherton said.

Funding and preparation

The Caregiver Cafe is fully funded for one year by a grant from the Horizon Foundation, which is based in Maine.

In preparation for the program, and in order to learn more about the needs of those with dementia, some of the library staff toured senior day cares and senior centers, and made observations.

In addition, some staff members completed Dementia Friend Training, which provides an overview of what dementia is and how one can communicate with someone who has dementia.

Need

According to the Darien Health Assessment conducted in 2017, 12.4 percent of the town’s population is over 65 years old.

“With Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other illnesses increasing, more people will be providing care at home for their aging loved ones in the very near future,” Netherton said. “Family caregivers often experience increased levels of emotional stress and a lack of opportunities to socialize, resulting in increased feelings of depression and isolation.”

At the Caregiver Cafe, caregivers can “feel support from the community with the satisfaction and relief of knowing that they have a safe and friendly place to venture out and socialize with their loved ones,” she added.

sfox@darientimes.com