Last Saturday, I visited the Tesco store in Abergele – not to do my Christmas food shopping, but to see an important new initiative aimed at supporting the large number of people of all ages who are living with dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Society is the UK’s leading support and research charity for people with dementia, their families and carers. Part of its important work is to help create environments that are welcoming to people living with dementia, of whom only 47% feel part of their community. At Tesco, I met Lucie Williams, who works with the Society as Secretary of the Abergele Dementia Friendly Group, and Jan Williams, Tesco’s energetic community champion. They showed me the new checkout that they have created at the store, which is clearly signed as “dementia friendly”.
People with dementia need time and patience, and it is important that they should not become flustered or feel stressed. Signs at checkout 12 therefore request customers to leave a gap between them and customers in front, to allow space for them to make and complete their purchases.
The checkout displays a poster showing notes and coins presently in circulation, to assist customers to check their money carefully before paying. There are also leaflets available, to help non-Alzheimer’s sufferers gain more understanding of a condition that is more prevalent than many would suspect.
Jan Williams told me that the Abergele initiative is the first on the North Wales coast, and is aimed at helping the town develop as a dementia-friendly community. She also told me that all new members of staff are inducted in becoming dementia-aware. Many staff members wear a “Dementia Friend” lapel badge, and people with dementia are encouraged to speak to them.
This is an excellent initiative by Tesco and the Alzheimer’s Society, and they are both to be commended for it. There is no doubt that dementia can be a devastating condition for those affected and family alike; but, with more public awareness and community support, a great deal can be done to reduce its impact. I very much hope that many more stores will follow Tesco’s lead.