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Family carers' perspectives of the Alzheimer Café in Ireland

Background: The Alzheimer Café is a psychosocial intervention shown to have benefits for family carers of people with dementia. Family carers experience a period of change across all aspects of their lives following the dementia diagnosis, and require new skills and tools to navigate these new landscapes. The objective of this research was to investigate family carers' perspectives of the Alzheimer Café in Ireland, and explore how attendance may translate into broader benefits in their lives. This paper also provides an overview of Alzheimer Café models, which exist internationally. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine family carers of people with dementia who were currently attending or had attended an Alzheimer Café in the preceding six months. The research was conducted in three Alzheimer Cafés in Ireland. Data analysis was conducted using Braun and Clarke's six step thematic analysis framework. Results: Community, atmosphere, activity and information were described as core features of the Alzheimer Café in Ireland. The Alzheimer Café was described as a community with a good atmosphere encompassing emotional support, friendship, equality and inclusion. Family carer also highlighted Alzheimer Cafés could potentially facilitate wider community awareness and engagement. The Alzheimer Café was shown to provide an activity which facilitated relationship building within care dyads as well as with other attendees. Several information streams were identified, including guest speaker input, attendees' shared experiences, and specific advice from healthcare professionals. Conclusion: The Alzheimer Café offers strong personal support to family carers of people with dementia. Our findings suggest that Alzheimer Cafés can build family carers' capacity to manage new social, environmental and cultural challenges associated with dementia. While it is important the Alzheimer Café is enjoyable, has useful information and is supportive, it is equally important that these features generate sustained improvements for family carers external to the Alzheimer Café. 

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