A wet Monday morning in the Tesco Costa (famously referred to me as a place where “you might get dumped by a partner” (see Costapocalypse blog) and an invite to a Dementia friends information session. This week is Dementia awareness week, until the 23rd May and a range of activities are taking place across the country. Dementia friends is an initiative from the Alzheimer’s society designed to change people’s attitudes, reduce the stigma attached to the illness and help those that suffer with it. By 2015 there will be 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK ( Alzheimer’s society) by 2025 this is expected to be as high as 1 million. A full list of ways to get involved and help here: http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents.php?categoryID=200450&_ga=1.115279175.1320312946.1429110119

Back to Tesco, who are well know in the city for fund raising and supporting charitable causes,  Dementia friends is the latest initiative.

Mondays session was conducted by NHS Dementia nurse Andy Tysoe, who works at the Countess and also for C-Wac. He has conceived the idea of cognitive ramps for people with cognitive disabilities. He explained (via press release that was emailed to me) ‘Basically, if you are physically disabled, you would expect a physical ramp to help you into buildings and though services. We now need to do the same for people with cognitive or ‘thinking’ disabilities and that’s exactly what Tesco are leading on”. The information session was attended by over 30 people, a mix of staff and members of the public.

making life better

Andy is hoping to see a new era of more patient and understanding attitudes: “Life for people living with dementia will never change if we continue to do the same. Part of my session encourages people to think differently about dementia and to get the ball rolling I include an example of seeing a dementia friendly checkout till in a supermarket. I see this development as a symbolic turning point – a pebble dropped into the pond of social inclusion and equality and we’d love to see how far we can go, making cognitive ramps as accepted and commonplace as physical ramps are for people with physical disabilities.”

dementia friendly checkout

One innovation pioneered by the store is the introduction of Dementia friendly checkouts. There will be a sign with the “forget me not “ logo to highlight where those affected by dementia and their carers will be able to find assistance by a specially trained colleague. Tesco Compliance manager Hayley Sale explained to me: “The till has been de-cluttered and we have put dementia information leaflets in place of the Tesco bank ones. We have put in pictures of the coins to help people identify them . Tommy a gentleman with dementia who came to launch the till today said it was brilliant as every time he goes into a shop he pays with notes as he gets confused and doesn’t like holding people up so he always ends up with pocketfuls of change so this should help with this” 35 members of staff, or colleagues, the technical term have received training to become a dementia friend. This covers some of the different types of dementia and parts on how the brain works aswell as examples of things to look out for to spot signs of dementia.

dementia launch

Hayley explained that next to launch will be dementia friendly car parking spaces : “We are hoping to dual sign 11 of our disabled bays for dementia & disabled parking – when it’s up and running we will issue our own ‘blue dementia’ badges for people to display in their cars allowing them use of the disabled bays in our car park”

Its a mad world, and things like this will surely make a difference to those that need an extra bit of help, I’m championing it. In an age where there is an apparent backlash against supermarkets, its great to see a large retailer suporting and engaging with the community. The store is a permanent drop off point for the Chester city mission and have supplied SPACE with fruit and snacks for some of their sessions, as well as regular fundraising for Diabetes UK and British Heart foundation

With thanks to James Marshall and Hayley Sale

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