GEM: Helping people living with dementia stay home longer

Published 9:41 am Tuesday, August 3, 2021

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By Gail Sonnesso, GEM Adult Day Services, Inc.

How can families strengthen their ability to care for their loved one at home? How can we improve the quality of life for individuals experiencing dementia? Current trends in research identify socialization, meaningful activities and music as beneficial not only for the individual with dementia but also for their care partner. Another important tool for care partners is a better understanding of what dementia is, how it affects their loved ones and learning how to improve their supportive skills.

GEM has known the value of social programs and we have learned how to engage our families with highly structured programs that support the family care partner, the individual experiencing cognitive challenges, community friends and volunteers.

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Harmony Café is one program that connects families. We have meetings monthly since July 2016. We suspended our programs due to Covid-19 but with the re-opening of the Baum Center, we were able to meet in person again in June. Our first program included a craft designed by Barbara Hanft, a local artist and member of the Dare County Arts Council, followed by a sing-a-long led by local musician Angelo Sonnesso. Our Next Harmony Café on August 13 will be virtual and will feature The Lost Colony players.

Because of Covid, we launched GEMz in July 2020 and we have been meeting virtually each week on Fridays via Zoom. There is no charge for this program and we are happy to report that people experiencing memory challenges are able to participate and enjoy the programs. Our next program on August 6 will be a craft with Barbara Hanft.

GEM also provides educational programs. Thanks to a grant for the Outer Banks Community Foundation, Faith Outreach GEM provides an overview of dementia and educational materials for individual faith communities. We also partnered with the (GWEP) Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program’s (ECU Team). Their workshop provided “Best Practices” of how to interact with a person living with dementia in July at the Baum Center. We are planning to partner with them again in October with a workshop about how to address difficult behaviors.

For information about GEM programs or to register, contact Gail Sonnesso at 252-480-3354 or by email at



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