In respect of social distancing measures, a number of people with Alzheimer’s disease wore their masks, and gathered around a round table in the space of the Ibn Rashiq House of Culture in the capital, Tunis, to attend the “Alzheimer’s Café”, coming to get answers to their questions and concerns.
Opening the café to drink coffee with a bit of fun is one of the basic laws set by its young Tunisian owner, Mona Issawi, who specializes in treating Alzheimer’s with music, to break the meeting from the official framework into a family atmosphere based on trust, mutual respect and spontaneity.
The idea of a café has always been conceived by Mona (28 years), who in her character combined her love of music and studied it, and her love for psychology, so she specialized in it.
After the rumors caused by the spread of the Corona epidemic in the country, Mona, the daughter of Nabeul Governorate (northeastern Tunisia), chose the date of September 21, corresponding to the International Day of Alzheimer’s Patients, for the launch of the first “Alzheimer’s Café” because of this important symbolic date.
One of the most important reasons for Mona launching the idea of the café is her direct contact with Alzheimer’s patients and their families, and her discovery of the terrible state of fear and shame – according to her description – that prevents them from facing and accepting this disease, and considering it a defect and stigma, in addition to negative and wrong dealing with the patient by isolating him from the outside environment.
The young woman assures Al-Jazeera Net that the café door is open to everyone without exception, including those with this disease, professionals, families and citizens interested in it, and that its laws are based on accepting the other without any prejudices.
The goals of the cafe
According to its owner, the café aims to exchange and share with the attendees their experiences with Alzheimer’s disease, ask their questions and obtain convincing answers from specialists that put an end to their doubts and confusion, and take them out of the cage of prohibited topics to public discussion to alleviate the suffering of those with it.
Mona hopes that the benefit will be spread to everyone who has a connection from near or far with this disease, and stresses that she desires, with all her heart, to share her talents and knowledge in this field with others, and that she “volunteered free of charge, out of desire and love for humanitarian work.”
It also strives to travel in the café to all Tunisian regions, and to meet the disadvantaged groups who are ignorant of the reality of Alzheimer’s disease, and do not have the financial means for both medical advice and treatment, and the most important thing for them is that “space is free for all.”
The coincidence of the Alzheimer’s Café launch with the height of the spread of the Coronavirus in the country did not prevent it from reaping positive interaction towards its initiative, whether in terms of the number of participants or the messages of encouragement and support it received, which increased its determination to continue and succeed.
Challenges and barriers
However, every new idea collides with some barriers, and the Alzheimer’s café was not isolated from it, and on top of it is people’s fear of talking about Alzheimer’s disease, and their shame at the spread of news and pictures of their participation in the cafe, according to her statement.
Mona strongly criticized the media’s interest in Alzheimer’s disease, and for not highlighting her individual initiative to publicize it and communicate it to all Tunisians.
The problem of the absence of the owners of some spaces has not forgotten the human side behind the organization of the Alzheimer Cafe, and their preference for the financial profit side by imposing high prices for renting the spaces, especially since they do not belong to any association, as you confirm to Al Jazeera Net.
Mona is not one of those young people who surrender before the first stumbling block that lies before them, but rather one of those who bend over and take it and throw it out of their way, so she decided to continue her initiative defying all difficulties, believing in the importance of her noble message.
In this regard, she explains, “I am no longer a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, but rather a different person, and we must accept this difference and better deal with it, understand and understand it.”
Mona sums up her message to the families of Alzheimer’s patients who are in pain and refuse to accept the injury of their loved ones, saying, “We and the café are here for you to provide you with moral and psychological support. Our door is open to listen to your problems and listen even to your cries and cries. You just have to break the barrier of silence and fear.”