Last Friday, mid-morning, I took a client to a department store and to lunch. My client lives in a memory care facility. She has dementia. She also is an 80 year retired English Literature professor, a mom, an aunt, a sister, a friend. She had a career before career women were common.
My client likes to shop and she loves to go out to eat. She walks with a walker and with the pain and stiffness that are the hallmarks of arthritis. Dementia has affected her vision, her hearing, and her short-term memory. She loves to read, and by read I mean holding a hard-bound book that she has chosen after browsing in a book store.
My role as her care manager is to advocate for her, look for accommodations for her and help the world adapt to her needs because she no longer can adapt to the world.
Dear world, can you help caregivers and their loved ones living with dementia continue to engage in meaningful activities?
- Restaurants: create a dementia-friendly menu with larger font print and simplified yet dignified food choices. When your customers asked for a child’s menu, a gluten-free menu, a menu for the blind, you responded. Ask your local Alzheimer’s Association if you need help creating and designing this menu.
- Clothing stores: arrange racks of clothes so that someone with a walker or a wheelchair can more easily browse. (People with strollers would thank you too.)
- Retailers in general: turn down the background music. Dial back the volume a little bit so the music isn’t competing with conversation and the challenge of making a purchase. Vision and hearing changes are part of the Alzheimer’s/dementia disease progression.
- Stores: train your sales associates how to recognize and assist someone with dementia. Give your associates permission to assist seniors with credit card/debit card swiping, inserting, tapping rather than repeating instructions over and over again.
- Stores: open a check-out lane for your slower-paced customers and see how that change diffuses frustration levels for everyone.
More than 5 million people in the U.S. are living with dementia. Every 66 seconds someone develops the disease. One in three seniors dies with dementia. (Alzheimer’s Association 2016 facts and figures)