Part of my internship with Aalborg Kommune’s services for early-onset dementia will be carried out at Brocaféen – a dementia café located in the middle of the city and near public and cultural activities. The goal of the café is to provide a social place (families and friends are welcome to attend as well), advice on dementia and appropriate activities, and to foster social activities through trips to centers and activities around the area and short vacations outside of town. You can read more about Brocaféen here (in Danish). I will be observing/participating for 3 Wednesdays in June as they take summer holiday in July.
For my first day, there were 3 gentlemen that attended and 2 staff as well as myself. We had planned to see the local Water Works Technology Museum (Vandteknisk museum), where they house old machinery that was originally used to clean and deliver water in the municipality. Unfortunately, the tour was cancelled, so we decided to take a trip to the local botanical garden (Urtehave) in Nørresundby (just across the fjord) instead. I was excited because even though I live only about 1 kilometer away from the garden, I have yet to visit it.
We arrived by car and were the only ones in the garden aside from the groundskeepers who were weeding and trimming trees. When you first enter the garden, there is a “Blind Garden,” where the plants are marked with written and braille words, the garden is up about waist height, and it is encouraged to touch, smell, and taste the plants.
There is an old house, called Brohuset (bridge house) that was built in 1880 and has household items from the past inside. It wasn’t open the day we went (June 4, 2014), so no inside pics, unfortunately. We did have a good time looking in the windows, though!
It was a great sensory experience, being able to smell, touch, and taste the plants (poisonous ones were clearly marked), and it also opened a lot of conversation on their own gardening experiences, past medical practices, farming, etc.
Since I am not a native Danish speaker, I also took the opportunity to ask what some plants were, saying I only knew the English name, or how they were used here in Denmark.
When we returned from our adventures in the garden, we had some fresh apple cake with macaroons and fresh whipped cream (put together by the participants), cookies, and coffee while we chatted for the final hour.
There were political discussions, talk of how war has changed over the years, films and theatre, Danish culture in film (they highly recommend I see Matador to learn some Danish history), and we even discussed technologies for a bit after I told them more about my PhD studies on technologies for dementia care.
In the final 20 minutes, one gentleman started talking about how his “condition” is getting him down. He commented that he would rather have had a broken arm or leg, because at least there is an end in sight, but this diagnosis is pointless because it just keeps going and no one knows what to expect or when it will end. We then started discussing the MMSE tests and one gentleman aptly said that if you are clever enough, you can easily guess the correct answers, so he doesn’t like the test (which is absolutely correct and I had written about it in my thesis). They also talked about how it seemed pointless to keep getting brain scans, and that they felt the medications weren’t really that useful. One man said he could tell his brain was communicating better when he first starts a medication, but can also feel that it plateaus and then starts to decline again. I was impressed at their level of insight into the details of diagnosing and treating dementias – I feel there is still so much to learn from them. This same man was also talking about how he has a hard time remembering his pin code for his debit card, but his hands remember the motion for the code, so that has gotten him through some sticky situations. I told them that there are some wearable technologies that identify the user based on their biorhythm, so when they come to an ATM or their front door code or email, the wristband wirelessly enters the code information for them. They thought this was a smart idea and were hoping I could recommend it to the Hjælpemiddeldepot as this is something they could see themselves using.
The activity planned for next week is to visit a forest about half an hour south of here, called Rold Skov (which also happens to be my favorite forest in Denmark and where I do my mushroom hunting)! I am looking forward to a longer dementia adventure outdoors next week!!
For my second week at Brocaféen, we took a trip about half an hour south to Rold Skov, a beautiful forest and the 2nd largest in Denmark. We got lucky with the weather, which actually turned out to be quite hot as the forest and hills blocked much of the wind. Our first stop was to find Ravnkilde, a natural spring that supplies Lindenborg Stream with 60 liters of pure spring water per second. It is always around 7-8° c, so we took the opportunity to have a drink to cool down. In my 9 years of living in Denmark, and in all the times I have visited Rold Skov (my favorite forest in Denmark and where I do my mushroom hunting in the autumn months), I had never drank from a spring, so this was a real treat for me as well!
We also tested our balance skills by crossing Lindenborg Stream.
We then loaded back into the bus and drove up to the tourist center of Rebild National Park (Rebild Bakker) for our picnic lunch – consisting of cheese or meat open-faced sandwiches (ostemad og spegepølse), beers, and coffee and cakes for dessert.
Then we took our time to visit some of the sights, starting with the scenic view of Rebild National Forest.
This is also the site where they hold a festival celebration of America’s Independence Day (July 4th) every year. There is a “Lincoln Log” cabin museum dedicated to the Danish-American connections, complete with a totem pole! The log cabin was made of wood that was shipped over from America – I didn’t catch the whole story (as it was in Danish, and sometimes I miss chunks of info 😉 ), but I think the original cabin burned down and this is the second version – don’t know if it is also American wood or Danish wood.
There is also Karen’s Tophuset, which was the area’s first tea garden (offering boiling water to those who had their own blue kettle). Top Karen “Marie Andersen” was the old woman who ran the (now) restaurant from 1900-1929, when she died at the age of 86.
We finished off our trip with a tour of Rebild Porten, a free tourist center (with amazing design!) that informs visitors about the plants, animals, and history of the area – including the stories of the dangerous robbers from years past and honorary speakers for the Rebild Festival (4th of July).
For my final week with Brocaféen, we followed in the footsteps of Her Majesty Queen Margrethe and His Royal Highness Prince Consort Henrik, who had sailed up from Copenhagen to Aalborg in the Royal Yacht, Dannebrog. Since we were feeling like Royalty, we started the afternoon with chocolate covered (Danish) strawberries and champagne! I know the Danes make a big deal about their strawberries, but they really are some of the best strawberries I have ever eaten (besides my grandma’s homegrown ones, of course). When they come into season, just smelling them in the stores and at the farmer’s markets will make your mouth water. If you are ever in Denmark in strawberry season, you are in for a treat!
The Royal pair had been next door at Nordkraft, so once they left for the next place, we headed over to Kunsthal Nord (art gallery) for a tour. Again, another place I have walked by a hundred times, but had yet to visit. This were some of my favorite pieces we saw. The one on the left says “Community, Security, Freedom, Tolerance, Trust,” and the one on the right is some well-known drugs.
When the royal duo finished having lunch at Musikkens Hus (the new concert hall in town), we followed in the footsteps and took a tour of the new music hall. Many had not seen the inside yet, so we took our time looking into all the doors and out all the windows we could. It is a pretty neat building with lots of light and structural eye candy, done in the typical Danish minimalist design. (I had visited 2 times before, so this first pic is from my PhD graduation in April, which was held there. The eldest son and heir to the throne, Crown Prince Fredrik, attended the University ceremony). The second pic is from Google – might have been at the opening ceremony early 2014.
Then we went back to Brocaféen for coffee and cake and a rest before we headed down to the harbor see the Royal couple board Dannebrog Yacht before their departure. We waited about half an hour by the harbor before the caravan of police escorts brought them to the ship, but the weather was great and the mood was cheerful. There were some children performing on unicycles to Abba music while we waited, so we were also entertained. I got a few shots, and was excited to see the Queen and Prince Consort for the first time!
A royal conclusion to my internship at Brocaféen in Aalborg. All in all, I had a fantastisk time there! The staff were highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and kept an active schedule for the participants to interact with the community and for companionship. By far, the participants said the companionship was one of the most rewarding aspects that keep them coming back. And I can totally understand why – they joke around like family, tease each other, laugh together, discuss the tough times, and really create a bond with one another. On a personal note, I was happy to have the opportunity to visit places I had yet to see, and I could ask them all kinds of questions that they could answer – like the names of plants, history of the town, about the royal family, etc. I would love to continue to volunteer there, but I think July will keep me busy with the Center for Welfare Technology. More posts on the internship to come!