The Five Love Languages and Dementia

Stan and Bonnie at Kate's Memory Cafe, exploring 5 Love Languages and Dementia

Exploring The Five Love Languages

At our February gathering of Kate’s Memory Café we explored themes from the book The Five Love Languages- How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman. In Chapman’s book he describes the 5 Love Languages as:
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Quality Time
3. Receiving Gifts
4. Acts of Service
5. Physical Touch
Highlighting from the book for a discussion point, we reviewed the following:
1. Words of Affirmation
“The object of love is not getting something you want but doing something for the well-being of the one you love. It is a fact, however, that when we receive affirming words we are far more likely to be motivated to reciprocate.”
2. Quality Time
“A central aspect of quality time is togetherness. I do not mean proximity. Togetherness has to do with focused attention.”
3. Receiving Gifts
“Physical presence in the time of crisis is the most powerful gift you can give if your spouse’s primary love language is receiving gifts.”
4. Acts of Service
“Requests give direction to love, but demands stop the flow of love. What we do for each other before marriage is no indication of what we will do after marriage.”
5. Physical Touch
“Physical touch can make or break a relationship. It can communicate hate or love. “
After some discussion of these topics the participants of the Memory Café were given the following questions for personal reflection, considering that the Love Languages in your relationship now that Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is present:

Things to remember, you each have a primary love language – this is how you respond best in the receiving. Remember, yours may not be the same as your mate. What is/was your mate’s love language?


Over time you and your mate have created a rhythm to your language…..a give and take. What did that look like?


Now that this disease has entered (or encroached on) the relationship, how has the dynamic of your love language changed? What accommodations have you made?



As the primary caregiver, how will you take care of your needs for love in the places where your mate may no longer be able to participate?


If you would like to explore this topic further here is a link to purchase this book on Amazon. You will also see other variations of this book.

Kate’s Memory Cafe

Memory Cafe Dancing

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. Irish Headstone Message 

Kate’s Memory Café Place for Friendship, Support, and Encouragement

When I started facilitating Kate’s Memory Café, the one thing that I had not counted on was the inevitable endings that we would face together. Whether from the decision to place a loved one in a care facility, or the ultimate good-bye that death would bring. At this month’s Memory Café we learned that since we had last gathered in November, several of our beloved participants had passed away. Some we knew about, but others were news to us.

On that day, we were blessed with the opportunity to confront our greatest fears and grief as several of our members arrived solo, ready to be embraced by their friends from the Café, friends everyone, who are walking parallel paths, always in search of answers, solutions, or tricks to make a difficult care-taking task easier. Irish quote on grief for Kate's Memory Cafe

Largely, over the past 20+ months our journey has been filled with joy, music, laughter and love. It has been such a privilege to see the friendships develop at the Memory Café as each and every one found solace in the other. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Friendship is born at the moment when one says to another: What you too? I thought I was the only one?”

The Holy Spirit guided me to change a few things for this gathering. I had re-arranged the room to accommodate the fact that I wanted to have a cozy fireside chat about surviving the long cold winter. At the last minute, I asked one of our volunteers to take the extra chairs and place them in a circle at the front of the room. I had grabbed a handful of strips of paper thinking that we would write those things that we wanted to let go of on the paper and then toss them in the fire. As we gathered I asked those sitting in the circle to answer the question “What do you need?” There was no answer more poignant than Dan’s as he struggled to find the right words as he waved his arm to include everyone in the circle. “This,” he said. “We need more of this.”

Hosting Kate’s Memory Café is such an honor. It simply would not happen without the support of wonderful volunteers, including the musicians who robustly share their talent, resource library from the Alzheimer’s Association, and of course our sponsor, AF Group, whose financial support makes it possible for us to put out a nice meal and cover the costs of materials for fun activities.

Indeed we do need more of “this.” If you know of someone who is caring for a loved one with early or mid-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it would be an honor to include them and their care partners in our circle of friends. Kate’s Memory Café meets monthly on the second Sunday (unless it is a holiday). We gather from 2pm to 4pm at Helping Hands Respite Care’s facility in East Lansing, 201 Hillside Court. The event is FREE of CHARGE. To reserve a table at the Memory Café call Katie Donovan at 517-242-7355,

Katie is a paid consultant to Helping Hands Respite Care, assisting with marketing, content and fund development. She facilitates the Memory Café, pro-bono, as an homage to her mother and father. Larry Donovan had Alzheimer’s disease and passed away in 2004, Mary Donovan was a faithful and tireless caregiver to her beloved.
Helping Hands Respite Care operates six programs providing professional respite care for families in a variety of circumstances. To learn more, please share this link:

I Love Kate’s Memory Cafe

Kate's Memory Cafe logo

A Reflection by Kate’s Memory Cafe Facilitator – Katie Donovan


One year ago, the first gathering of the Memory Café happened in the “Good Morning” room at Helping Hands Respite Care. It was so exciting to see this program launched. My excitement was quickly eclipsed by a wave of sadness when Hank and Sue got up to dance. The physical similarity of this beautiful couple, so obviously in love, brought back memories of my own Dad and Mom and their struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. I had to step out of the room to compose myself for a few minutes. Learning that they had just recently gotten their diagnosis reminded me of what a tough journey they would have ahead of them.
You see, my father had Alzheimer’s and ultimately passed away in March of 2004 after years in the clutches of this progressive disease. The challenges that these caregivers are facing daily bring back so many memories for me. Yet, facilitating the Memory Café has been such a blessing in my life. I feel such a kinship with the people who come – both those with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Dementia and their care partners.


During the time of Dad’s progression with the illness our family was fortunate – we had a mother who was a strong and resourceful caregiver. I was part of a sibling group who found a way to be on the same page about care for both Dad and Mom despite the fact that two of the four of us were not able to participate on a day-to-day basis except by phone and email. Yes, we faced frustrations. Yes, we were often confused about new stages and behaviors related to the disease that we saw in Dad; and yes, we were concerned about the near future and the health of our mother as the burden of care extended from months into years.


Kate’s Memory Cafe #1 Volunteer


For nearly every gathering of Kate’s Memory Cafe, my Mom has come along to be my “#1 Volunteer.” She is 86 and is not as strong as she used to be; she has recently surrendered her driving privileges, and unwillingly succumbed to the reality that she needs hearing aids. I admire her spunky attitude and her amazing ability to make new friends. But, my heart breaks a little bit each time because I know that Mom has a form of dementia which seems to be progressing.


The lesson that I continue to learn (and often share at the Memory Cafe) is that every day is a blessing and it is my job to respond to my Mom’s confusion with compassion, and to her endless loop of stories as if I am hearing them for the first time. I remain vigilant for those moments of clarity that she still has, and eagerly welcome a new reminiscence about her life that I have never heard before. (Just a few weeks ago I learned that my Dad painted his car with flat black house paint on the day before he and Mom got married.)


It is such an honor to share new ideas and resources with the care partners who bring their loved one to Kate’s Memory Café. At Helping Hands Respite Care we are pleased to have the financial support of the AF Group to cover the costs of the Memory Café, making it possible for us to continue to offer this opportunity for respite, fun, and relaxation to all who might wish to come.


Hank and Sue still get up to dance at the Memory Cafe, although Hank is losing his words and sometimes forgets that Sue is his wife. For many who attend the lessons on the importance of respite are beginning to sink in, and our numbers are growing. Why do I spend my free time on the Memory Café? I do it for the memory of Dad, I do it for Mom, I do it for me.


Kate’s Memory Café is a free service offered at the offices of Helping Hands Respite Care once a month on the second Sunday (except when the date coincides with a major holiday). It is for those with a diagnosis of early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s or Dementia and their care partner. A care partner could be a spouse, a sibling, an adult child, or anyone else who has taken on the primary responsibility for care. The aim of the Memory Café is to offer both an understanding and appreciation for respite, and the tools to help the primary caregiver build a natural support team. The gathering includes socialization, live music, snacks and a meal, a fun activity and a brief educational opportunity for the care givers.  To learn more or to reserve a spot email :