I want my town to be the first dementia friendly town in Shropshire.
Yesterday I visited almost every shop and business on the main streets and invited them to join our Shropshire Dementia Action Alliance. I asked them to come to a dementia friends session next week. I talked briefly about what being dementia friendly is about.
The Alzheimers Society Dementia Bus came to Tesco for the day as well, and lots of people dropped in to talk about dementia, most touched by the disease in some way.
And I realised that actually most shops and business people in Ellesmere are already dementia friendly. So, as one shopkeeper whose activity is not unrelated to baking might have said, “It should be a piece of cake.”
They’re a friendly lot, our shop keepers. They smile a lot, and pass the time of day. They use your name if they know you. Many have chairs and are happy for you to sit down for a while.
One of the bank managers said they offer payment cards that don’t use PIN numbers if customers really can’t remember. And he said he’d come to my friends session next week. (Win.)
Several sole trader shopkeepers said they’d come to a session at 5.00 after work, so I said I’d organise that.
A pub readily offered me the use of their function room free for training sessions. The new owners want to support community activity…wonderful.
An estate agent shop had a lovely warm, friendly and light feeling, where I knew straightaway anyone who needed a little time or understanding would be made welcome and invited to sit and chat.
A pharmacy was dead keen to start a purple angel information and chat drop in activity in the shop. (Win.)
They’re doing it already. What’s good for business is good for people with dementia. What works for a person without dementia workers for one with it.
Yes, there are a few add-ons which we can suggest.
Like the bank publicising its PINless cards, rather than waiting for people to have a problem and come to them.
Like a person selling a house avoiding where possible talking just to the carer or friend across the owner with dementia, or confusion, or anxiety.
Like helping a person who has forgotten their purpose to retrace their steps that day so they pick up the thread they lost a few minutes ago.
Like allowing silences, waiting for the customer to gather their thoughts, not filling gaps.
Like not sitting behind desks in uniform business suits with unsmiling faces that look quite hostile to some. (Do you dare to interrupt me? Or sit at my desk?)
It’s really interesting going into all the shops on one day. Which would I go back to? Which are welcoming? Which are friendly?
Well, I know which I think will still be in business in ten years.
And I know which will be less used by people with confusion and anxiety, with cognitive impairment or dementia. So it’s their loss.
But of course it’s ours too. Because people with dementia lose their confidence if they are not welcomed in our dementia friendly ways when they are out in the community. And they stay at home and lose touch, lose more cognitive ability, become frail…
That’s why I want Ellesmere to be the first dementia friendly town in Shropshire.
And we will be.