To herald Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Action Week, which starts today, restaurant chains across England and Wales came together, for the very first time, for the innovative campaign Dining4Dementia.
The scheme saw nine restaurants from across England and Wales inviting people with dementia to buddy up with restaurant staff and volunteer front-of-house on the 18-19 May, demonstrating that with the right support and some small adjustments, people with dementia can still contribute to the workplace and learn new skills, even in fast-paced environments.
Dining4Dementia was inspired by the upcoming Channel 4’s TV series ‘The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes’, supported by Alzheimer’s Society. The TV show, created by CPL Productions (makers of ‘Old People’s Homes for 4-Year-Olds’) saw 14 volunteers, all living with a dementia diagnosis, staff a restaurant in the heart of Bristol, under the guidance of TV chef Josh Eggleton. The programme will air in June.
Josh Eggleton’s Michelin-star restaurant, the Pony and Trap, and well-known chains Boston Tea Party, Comptoir Libanais, TGI Fridays and Pieminister, all saw people with dementia become waiters for the weekend.
Dining4Dementia has kick-started Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Action Week (20-26 May). The week aims to help include people with dementia in society by tackling the stigma and ending the awkwardness around dementia. Everyone is encouraged to reach out and start talking about dementia and to people with dementia throughout the week.
Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Action Week comes just after the charity released statistics highlighting the prevalence of loneliness and isolation among people living with dementia. Currently, there is up to an estimated 120,000 people living alone with dementia in the UK and this number is predicted to double to around 240,000 by 2039.
Findings from an Alzheimer’s Society survey of over 350 people with dementia reveal that over half experience loneliness (58%) and isolation (56%), and are losing touch with people since being diagnosed (56%). Around a third said they felt unable to spend time with friends now they have dementia (29%) and around a quarter (27%) feel they are not part of their community and have disclosed that they feel people avoid them (23%).
The prevalence of isolation and loneliness experienced by people with dementia is partly explained by the misconceptions held by the general public, which was revealed in a recent YouGov poll. Even though two-thirds of people with dementia live in the community, the majority of people (85%) believe they are most likely to meet someone with dementia in a care home. There are also long-standing feelings of awkwardness and nervousness – two fifths (40%) said they wouldn’t feel confident about communicating with someone with dementia and a quarter (26%) said they would feel nervous approaching someone with dementia.
One of the volunteers at Comptoir Libonais in Liverpool St, London, was Jerry Beckman, 54, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease dementia four years ago. The disease is progressive and impairs thought processes, mobility, mental function and memory.
Jerry said of his experience:
“Taking part in Dining4Dementia was a great way for me to help tackle the stigma of dementia and raise awareness that everyone with dementia should be included and valued in society. As time has gone on, it hasn’t been so easy to keep smiling and I have felt like screaming inside at the loss of the talents and skills that made me who I am. I just want to feel useful, so learning new skills and speaking to people about my condition at the restaurant has been an amazing experience.”
Kathryn Smith, Chief Operating Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said of the campaign:
“There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, but too many feel isolated and excluded from society. Dining4Dementia gives people with dementia the chance to learn new skills, express themselves and socialise with others in a mutually beneficial way. But it goes much further than that. There are clearly still misconceptions and feelings of awkwardness around saying the wrong thing to someone with dementia. Dining4Dementia is helping break down barriers, bust myths and start conversations so we can increase awareness of what it’s like to live with the condition and help people with dementia be more included and involved in their communities.”
Josh Eggleton, added:
“I knew relatively little of dementia and its impact on people’s lives before getting involved in the upcoming TV series ‘The Restaurant that Makes Mistakes’ and Alzheimer’s Society’s Dining4Dementia. I’m passionate about teaching and saw Dining4Dementia as an opportunity to teach people with dementia new skills. Through my involvement, I’ve gained a better understanding of dementia and how important it is to listen to people who are affected by it and ask them what they need. The truth is, there were only some small and simple adjustments we needed to make to support people with dementia, and beyond that, I treated them in the same way as I would any of my employees. We can all make a difference by showing a bit of patience and humility.”
Alzheimer’s Society is determined to make sure no-one with dementia has to face a future alone. This Dementia Action Week, there are small acts of kindness that everyone can do, whether it’s calling or visiting a relative or neighbour with dementia, being patient in a queue or becoming a Dementia Friend or dementia friendly business. There are currently around 2.8 million Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends and over 400 dementia-friendly businesses and communities, helping to change people’s perceptions of dementia and transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about the condition.
Visit alzheimers.org.uk/DAW to find out how you can be part of the conversation this Dementia Action Week.