Love and friendship were in the air at Borelli’s in East Meadow during the Long Island Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Valentine’s Day Memory Café, an engagement program for people in the early to middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease and their care partners.
Almost 60 people impacted by Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia attended the event, funded through a grant from the New York State Department of Health and hosted in partnership with Family and Children's Association, Parker Jewish Institute and the Stony Brook Center of Excellence for Alzheimer's Disease. This free program allows people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their care partners to socialize and enjoy music, food and fun in a safe, relaxing atmosphere.
“It can be socially isolating to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s,” said Doug Davidson, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association Long Island Chapter. “This gives them an opportunity to dine out together, enjoy some entertainment, and make lasting and supportive friendships.”
“It’s always nice to see folks chatting, singing and swaying to the music,” said Kate Anastasia, program director for the Alzheimer’s Association Long Island Chapter.
The entertainment was provided by Gary Piacentini, the “keyboard wizard,” whose music selections range from the 1920s to present and included some sing-alongs where he invited participants to share in the fun. One woman with early stage dementia sang “Crazy” and a gentleman channeled his inner Elvis with “Love Me Tender” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.”
“Yesterday's audience was the type that each and every performer would give their all to entertain,” said Piacentini. “The audience was that great to play for. The last song I did was the crowd pleasing "Sweet Caroline" where everybody joined in.”
Piacentini, who lives in Plainview, lost his mother to Alzheimer’s disease two years ago and said that giving back was very meaningful to him. In addition to being a performer, he is a recreational therapist at Excel in Woodbury for Rehabilitation and Nursing.
The Alzheimer’s Association Long Island Chapter offers family care consultations, education and support groups in East Meadow and throughout Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Visit alz.org/longisland for more information.
The Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's®. Visit www.alz.org or call 800.272.3900.