What exactly is The Tender?

Imagine that you’ve been married for 20, 30 or 40 years.  You’ve worked hard and are looking forward to a well-deserved retirement.  Maybe you want to move to someplace warm or travel or just have time to do the things that you didn’t have time for before. So the long awaited day arrives and you’re both retired and then you notice “something”.  You’re sure it’s nothing so you ignore it, but then one day your spouse gets lost coming home from Wawa.  You continue to ignore it or make excuses for it until one day something happens, something that scares you, really scares you and you go to a doctor who tells you that your spouse has dementia.  Whether it’s Alzheimer’s disease, Frontal/Temporal dementia, Lewy Body dementia or any dementia your life has now dramatically changed forever and all of your carefully crafted plans are gone.

You learn that there is no effective treatment, no remission, no cure.  As the weeks turn into months and months into years, your spouse becomes a different person…forgetful, easily irritated, unable to make decisions, unable to follow instructions, unable to have a conversation.  You can’t leave them alone for even an hour so your whole life is now consumed by this disease.  No one who isn’t living with it even understands it.  You feel completely lost, broken and isolated knowing that as bad as it is now it will get much worse.

So what exactly is The Tender?  It’s a place where people with all different forms of dementia can come and interact with peers without having to worry about repeating themselves or saying the “wrong thing”.  It’s a place where they can get a little piece of their life back and have fun, something that had been lost.  It’s a place where a caregiver can find support, understanding, referrals, education and respite.  It’s hard to imagine but just knowing that you’ll have 5 hours to yourself can be the difference between despair and hope.