By MITZI LOWERY
Meet Shelly Roy, a St. Charles woman on a mission. After nearly 10 years of compassionate volunteering and personal experience, she’s determined to help others navigate the difficult and often unspoken journey through dementia.
Shelly is warm, welcoming and full of spirit about the work she is doing in the St. Charles community for those affected by dementia and their families. Her mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease had a profound effect on her family, spanning a range of deep emotions and coupled with so many decisions about treatment, living arrangements and even end-of-life care.
As Shelly struggled through the uncertainty and heartache, she began to volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association to help make sense of her feelings. Her purpose was to stay connected to her mother amid the family’s changing dynamic and create moments of joy along the way.
At the time, Shelly was living in Tucson, Arizona, and her mother was living in Florida. Shelly and her family journeyed to her mom and through Alzheimer’s for nine years.
In October 2019, Shelly established The Bev Roy Hope Foundation, named after her mother. That same month, after much planning, brainstorming and outreaches for support, she held the first Main Street Memory Café event in the cozy quarters of Valenti’s Deli on Main Street in Saint Charles’ historic district. The first event brought 10 people together. This month, Shelly had to move the gathering to the Main Street Church, a few doors down from Valenti’s, in order to house an incredible 40 guests.
The Memory Café welcomes and serves individuals with mild to moderate dementia along with their caregivers. But Shelly’s commitment to creating a caring community does not stop there.
Recently, she collaborated with Laura McCoy, director of community outreach for Home Instead Senior Care, to help eight Main Street restaurants and businesses ensure that their staff is properly trained to welcome guests with dementia. In partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, Home Instead Senior Care teaches businesses how to create dementia-friendly environments that promote respect and dignity.
Additionally, Shelly is outlining details to have specific days set aside when individuals with dementia are encouraged to visit Main Street businesses. The goal is to make Main Street dementia-friendly through a pilot program of “purple flag days.”
Every Memory Café event is themed to provide social engagement in a relaxed, safe and non-judgmental environment. Guests are treated to interactive programming, including music and art as well as conversation and companionship. The event is free and guests are welcomed with hugs and lots of smiles and love.
Mary Williams, senior manager for the Greater Missouri Walk to End Alzheimer’s, shared that music is the last thing people with dementia forget.
Dementia is an umbrella term for the loss of memory or intellectual abilities. There are many types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common form. The disease can be very isolating, which is why the Alzheimer’s Association strives to shine a light on available resources and to talk about the disease and the needs of all those affected, including caregivers.
Jacob Simburger, communications manager for the Alzheimer’s Association, noted that statistically only 1 in 10 families tap into the Association’s resources following a diagnosis. In so doing, the remaining families leave a wealth of resources, including a 24/7 helpline – (800) 272-3900, on the table.
The Greater Missouri Alzheimer’s Association [alz.org/greatermissouri] connects diagnosed individuals and caregivers to articles and information, research, support groups, care consultants, community forums and a place to connect through volunteering, special events and walks. St. Charles County is the site of the Association’s largest walk, which will take place on Sept. 26 in 2020.
Shelly hosts monthly events on the second Tuesday of each month at The Main Street Church. To learn more and to register, visit bevroyhopefoundation.org or call Shelly at (520) 576-8894.