R+R Club helps families with early-onset memory loss

 

MILWAUKEE – When Dawn Adler started a club two years ago for those with early-onset memory loss, it wasn’t because she saw there were other clubs like it. In fact, it’s an unusual idea.

Adler, the director of the adult day care center and ReCharge for Ovation Jewish Home, started the club because she saw a need for it.

The club was invited to an R+R Club member’s residence on the Lake on Prospect Avenue. Mark and Mike got to work. The specialty was burgers and the day included an excellent brain-healthy quinoa salad and watermelon.

Today, that’s history. The R+R Club has been operating since September 2016, meeting needs, giving caregivers a break and helping younger adults with memory loss to connect socially.

“It’s almost like a family get-together,” said Tony Cutraro, 73, of Milwaukee, whose wife Patti, 69, has participated in the group.

“R+R” stands for “ReCharge and Renew” and the club seeks to offer active individuals experiencing memory loss at an early age – generally under 65 – the opportunity to participate in cultural events and interactive experiences around the Milwaukee area. Trips have included one to an elk farm in Port Washington, another to a distillery and one to go make cheeseheads.

“It’s their group, so whatever they want to do,” Adler said.

The R+R Club was initially launched with a Bader Philanthropies grant and the club also receives needed support from Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

Cutraro said his wife joined because “there was nothing else like it.”

Adler recalled, “This is what people were asking for.”

“They wanted to have fun,” she said. “They wanted to connect with people who are in the same position with them.”

Your social circle can shrink when one partner in a couple has memory loss. Old friends don’t always know how to respond to it.

There are programs for older adults. Yet people with early-onset memory loss often like spending time with others who, like them, are often younger and still active.

The club took a painting class at Art N Oddities in West Allis. The club asked to learn so they could paint at home as well.

Also, those with early-onset memory loss deal with different issues than some others with memory loss and there’s not a wide variety of services for such people, Adler said.

Thus, the R+R club fills a gap between a full-day program like an adult day care program, which some with early-onset memory loss may not be keen to consider, and memory café events around town that host brief visits for couples. With the R+R club, a partner not affected by memory loss can drop off the one who is, knowing that the active-but-staffed program has them in good hands. Each 4-hour Friday session can serve as a respite for a family caregiver, allowing time for errands or work.

“Caregivers are also part of the equation,” said Cutraro. “They’re a big part of the support mechanism.”

The R+R Club meets weekly in the Oasis Café, 1410 N. Prospect Ave., before each community outing, support group, relaxation technique or other program. The club’s 15 members attend regularly and get to know one another.

“It encourages (people) developing relationships among themselves,” said Cutraro. “There is still a lot of not only life but interest in living for people who are going through various stages of Alzheimer’s.”

For more information about the R+R Club, contact Dawn Adler at 414-277.8838 or DAdler@ovation.org.