•By Elisa Sand firstname.lastname@example.org
Published Feb. 12, 2020
Imagine a menu with limited choices and no prices.
It’s not a children’s menu, but an option a restaurant could consider as a way to be more accommodating for people with dementia. When Jessica Rehder and Charity Pionk talk about the menus, they see them as purple — the same color used to signify support of Alzheimer’s.
Why the special menu?
As Rehder explains it, people who have dementia — especially the current generation of senior citizens — tend to fixate on prices. Showing them the options without the prices is one less obstacle to overcome at a restaurant.
The purple menu would also be an unspoken signal for staff about the customer who may order chicken, but not remember by the time the meal arrived.
What happens next is something Rehder and Pionk hope to address through training for restaurant employees as part of Aberdeen’s designation as a dementia friendly community through Dementia Friendly America. Rehder is Primrose Retirement Community’s sales director, and Pionk is director for Bethesda’s Adult Day Care Center.
The two are also members of the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce Dementia Friendly Community Committee.
“We’d like to have a logo for restaurants to signify they’ve been trained,” Rehder said. That logo would be something a caregiver could look for when searching for a place to eat.
Aberdeen gained recognition in 2019 as the first town in South Dakota with a dementia friendly designation. The idea to pursue the designation came from Dr. Harvey Hart about a year ago, Rehder said. He pitched the idea to the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce Health and Wellness Committee.
“We found that dementia friendly is more about raising educational awareness,” Rehder said. For instance, she said, it’s about education for employers to help them look for signs that they might have an employee who is caring for a family member with dementia and helping the employer come up with ways to support that worker so they can continue to do their job. Rehder said part of that support is knowing the resources available in the community — like Bethesda’s Adult Day Care Center or respite care through Primrose. Respite care is a short-term placement that can be up to two weeks, Rehder said. This option is for caregivers who, for instance, are leaving town.
“Caring for someone with dementia is 24/7, seven days a week,” she said, explaining that those overnight hours are often when the most attention is needed in case a family member decides to leave the house. In the winter, she said, that’s especially important because someone with dementia isn’t as aware of the temperature and how cold it is.
Being a caregiver also means added challenges when it comes to running simple errands, like going to the grocery store. Rehder said caregivers are constantly negotiating, and meltdowns can and do occur, some of which are in public.
Community awareness is also about employees being cognizant of suspicious behavior. Some, for example, might enter a store and believe that everything on the shelf belongs to them, she said. Others might enter a store asking to buy gift cards for an unusually high amount.
A community kickoff is planned later this year, although a date has not been set. Additional committee members are welcome.