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Alzheimer's Cafe serves up pizza and sing-a-longs

A band plays at Alzheimer's Cafe at Columbia City's Tutta Bella. (Photo by Rachel Belle)

Every second Thursday of the month, the Columbia City location of Tutta Bella Neopolitan Pizzeria transforms into what's called Alzheimer's Cafe. People with Alzheimer's, and their caretakers, are invited to have a meal and socialize.

"This concept originated in Europe," says Full Life Care executive director, Nora Gibson. "The idea being that lots of people living with Alzheimer's are in our communities and they're hidden and they often don't feel comfortable coming out. By using the phrase, Alzheimer's Cafe, it calls out that this is a place that you can come and feel comfortable. The importance is that it's just in a regular restaurant, a place that you might want to go with your family, and have some food and have some fun in a neighborhood. Rather than a place where you get services or support."

Tutta Bella gives the group their own wing of the restaurant, they print up a special, shorter menu, so diners don't have to get lost in a sea of choices, and servers know to be extra patient. There's also live music and a sing-a-long.

Alice Padilla was diagnosed with Alzheimers last year and she came to Alzheimer's Cafe with her husband Paul.

"Paul and I, when we came home from the doctor's, we sat down and we cried together and that was the last time I had cried. Paul has cried but I don't cry for me because I don't have the time. I want the time that I have to be happy and joyful and that's how we live our lives."

Paul says the monthly gathering is super helpful.

"This is my support group also. I get some insight from other people, some information that might be useful for me: websites, resources, and the support, the support's the greatest thing."

Bob Ballard stopped in to spend time with the friends he's made at Alzheimer's Cafe. His wife Jeanne, who was diagnosed in 2005, wasn't in the mood to come that day.

"It's an opportunity for my wife to get out. With her disability it's kind of embarrassing in places where she's observed. Her eating habits are kind of not the best. So there's a little bit of cleanup after she's eaten."

Nora says it's very important for those with dementia and Alzheimer's to have social interaction, and Alzheimer's Cafe reminds the public that even though they don't act quite the same as they used to, they're still people.

"People who live with Alzheimer's, they're still here, they haven't disappeared, they still have a lot to offer and contribute. The Alzheimer's Cafe is a part of a movement to encourage that to happen."

There are also Alzheimer's Cafes in Edmonds, Renton, Greenwood and coming soon in Issaquah.

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