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Posted: July 27, 2021

Senior Living

Living Well: How to Make Your Business Dementia Friendly

Many business owners who haven’t had a loved one with dementia might not even consider how the experience might be for caretakers and those with dementia to visit their business. Making it easier for people with dementia to do everyday business in the community has clear benefits:

  • Retain existing customers. If customers who have dementia and their family caregivers don’t find it easy to use a business, they will likely seek out another.
  • Attract new customers. Some 60 percent of people with dementia live at home, often with support from families, friends, and the community.

For those living with dementia, as well as for their caregivers, staying engaged in community life is essential to their well-being. This often means using businesses that are easy to navigate and have helpful, aware staff.

It’s also worth considering the hours of work lost by businesses because of family members who are caring for loved ones living with dementia. This can have a real financial impact on a business.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a change in the way a person experiences the world around them; it is not a diagnosis.

Dementia is an umbrella term for a particular group of symptoms that interfere with a person’s daily life. The characteristic symptoms of dementia are difficulties with the following:

  • Memory
  • Language
  • Judgment and safety awareness
  • Problem-solving
  • Other brain functions that have an impact on a person’s ability to do ordinary activities

There are many different diseases that cause dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

What Does It Mean to Be a Dementia-Friendly Business?

Businesses and organizations can make a big difference for people with dementia and their caregivers by making a commitment to become more dementia-friendly. This does not mean your business and employees are expected to become experts in dementia.  But a willingness to educate yourself, your colleagues, and even your other customers will set your business apart in the marketplace. Becoming a dementia-friendly business is not only socially responsible, but it can also bring economic benefits when your business is sought out because of it.

Employees who go through training play a key role in helping to remove stigmas associated with dementia. They do this through their interactions with a person living with dementia, showing that they can be productive and life-enriching, both for the customer as well as the employee and business.

The key attributes that characterize a dementia-inclusive business include:

  • Certification of basic dementia engagement competency for front-line or community-interacting staff.
  • A staff in which at least 50 percent of the customer-interacting staff has participated in dementia-inclusive training. Staff who participate will be provided with a certificate of completion.
  • The business agrees to a commitment of compassion for people who lived with dementia-type illnesses.

Participant businesses will be provided with a window cling and inclusion in a listing of dementia-friendly businesses. They will also be provided with resource material to share with customers and staff.

The Rhythms Dementia Program

Heather Waymire, the Memory Care Coordinator at Sugar Fork Crossing, offers a program for local business owners to support those living with dementia as well as their caregivers. The Rhythms Dementia Program offered by Sugar Fork Crossing’s management company, Cappella Living Solutions, is based on national best practices and research.

“At Sugar Fork Crossing,” explains Heather, “we embrace the Rhythms philosophy that centers around the best way to support those living with dementia by matching their natural rhythm of life, whatever it is any given day, to celebrate their contributions and not focus on any deficits caused by the disease process.”

Participants in the program will be trained to look for signs of dementia, including:

  • Difficulty in expression
  • Vague or unclear instructions
  • Evidence of anxiety or confusion
  • Indications of an impetuous decision

These may be indications that customers may have dementia, and business owners and employees should stop and help them while still respecting their dignity. 

The program discusses how important it is to interact equally with the caregiver and the person with dementia, treating the latter as the adult they are.

Heather offers one-on-one family consultations and ongoing community education opportunities for businesses that seek to become dementia-friendly and provide dignity to those living with dementia. For more information on Sugar Fork Crossing’s Dementia Inclusive Training, contact 765-560-7028.

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