Forget them not: with the number of people in the UK with dementia ever increasing the time is now to look at how your business can support them
Every three minutes, someone in the UK develops dementia, it has become one of the nation’s biggest killers, with more than 850,000 people currently living with it.
This means almost all of us will know someone affected by dementia – a family member, friend, regular customer or member of staff. But sadly, all too often people living with dementia and their carers feel cut off from their communities, isolated and written off by friends and society.
A new initiative for the hospitality industry by the Alzheimer’s Society called ‘Dining4Dementia’ launched earlier this month. It aims to help support people with dementia by persuading food service operators to offer them volunteer opportunities at their restaurants, pubs and cafes.
The number of people who have dementia in the UK is forecasted to increase to more than one million by 2025 and currently there are more than 40,000 people under the age of 65 with the condition. Although so many are still of working age, only a fifth of them have continued to work post diagnosis.
The aim of ‘Dining4Dementia’ is to give customers a dementia-friendly experience, raise their awareness of the condition and demonstrate how employers can include those with dementia in the workplace. Restaurant groups taking part in this year’s initiative include TGI Friday’s, Azzuri Group’s Comptoir Libanais, Boston Tea Party, Pieminister and Humble Grape.
Training support for food service operators
The Alzheimer’s Society has been supporting restaurants involved in ‘Dining4Dementia’ by giving tailored training on how to best support people with dementia and what adjustments need to be made to accommodate them. ‘Dining4Dementia’ is part of the annual ‘Dementia Action Week’, held every May, it aims to unite people, workplaces, schools and communities to take action and help improve the lives of those with dementia.
The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes
The ‘Dining4Dementia’ initiative is inspired by the forthcoming Channel 4 TV series ‘The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes’, which aims to show how people with dementia can still make a positive contribution in the workplace. The five-part TV series, which will air later this year, sees 14 volunteers with dementia help run a restaurant in the heart of Bristol, under the guidance of Michelin-star chef and three time BBC ‘Great British Menu’ regional winner Josh Eggleton. Eggleton has said that at ‘The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes’ straightforward and inexpensive adjustments were made to help the volunteers, including using dementia friendly signage to help orientate people and having checklists on the wall, which is standard in most kitchens and helps everyone. A checklist for service was developed to help the front of house team, enabling staff to check back to see if orders had been taken and tables cleared. Five of Josh Eggleton’s pubs and restaurants took part in this year’s ‘Dining4Dementia’ initiative.
Be a dementia-friendly business
For many people living with dementia and their carers, simple pleasures like going out for a meal with friends and family can often become feared and seen as too challenging. Research by the Alzheimer’s Society shows that less than half (47%) of those with dementia feel part of their community and 28% said they had given up even getting out of the house. So if you still want to help support the growing number of people with dementia and attract them and their families to your business it is important to make sites dementia-friendly.
This can be achieved through simple changes such as having dementia friendly signage and appointing a ‘Dementia Champion’ in your business. This designated person can take a ‘Dementia Friends’ information session to help them better understand the needs of those living with the condition and then share their understanding and insights, as best practice, with other team members. When team members become ‘Dementia Friends’ they can help support any staff members that potentially are diagnosed with dementia as this is not an illness that just affects the elderly. Once team members have done a ‘Dementia Friends’ information course, you can display the ‘Dementia Friends’ forget-me-not symbol at the front of your restaurant to let people with dementia and their carers know that your business is dementia friendly.
Dementia-friendly restaurant services
Some restaurants run special dementia-friendly lunches such as The Farmyard in Norwich, which runs quarterly dementia-friendly lunch events. It is a regular lunch service where everyone is welcome but its menus at this service include photos to help ease decision making for those with dementia. Music is played at a lower volume and matched to the audience to help spark happy memories. The aim is to let families impacted by dementia know the restaurant is open to them and that their team understands some of the challenges they face.
With programmes such as BBC One’s recent ‘Our Dementia Choir’ and ‘The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes’ continuing to raise the awareness and understanding of dementia, now is the ideal time to act and show you are a business with a social conscience. Taking action is not only great for people with dementia, but a positive thing for your team to engage with and ultimately being perceived as a food service company that cares is good for your business.
*The Alzheimer’s Society is already appealing for hospitality businesses to get involved in ‘Dining4Dementia’ in 2020.For more information visit: www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/dementia-friendly-communities/dining4dementia and email ‘Dining4Dementia@alzheimers.org.uk to register your interest.