Curry house dementia training

Staff can spot signs and support sufferers

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In the Bradford area there are almost 4,000 people living with dementia, according to the charity Alzheimers Research UK, a figure that amounts to 1.14 per cent of the population.

The city and surrounding towns are placed 67th in the list of the country’s dementia hotspots. Although it is well below Devon, which has the nation’s highest number of people suffering from the illness, the picture is still a cause for concern and when publishing the figures Alzheimers Research UK said: “Dementia is fast becoming the defining health issue of our time, with the rates of people living with the condition projected to increase rapidly and no treatment to prevent, slow or cure the underlying diseases.”

It pointed out that awareness of the condition was still low. In the Bradford satellite town of Keighley, however, the problem is being addressed by a charity named Dementia Friendly Keighley (DFK), which helps sufferers and their carers. Latest figures show the area has 1,327 people who have been diagnosed with the condition, which is 4.6 per cent of patients aged 65 or over.

One of DFK’s initiatives is a unique partnership with a local curry house. The charity has trained staff to recognise the signs of dementia and to sympathetically deal with any issues that arise in the restaurant.

Suggested actions

Roy Williams of DFK said: “Someone who has the illness does not have it tattooed on their forehead, so staff now know what to look for and to be understanding if the symptoms become apparent.”

The problem most often encountered is that a dementia sufferer can’t remember what he or she has ordered, and sometimes becomes upset if they believe the wrong dish has been served.

Williams spent a Sunday afternoon training 10 staff at Azeem’s Indian restaurant in Keighley, and has continued to goes back to deliver the same dementia awareness session whenever new waiters are hired.

A range of actions were suggested when confronted with diners who might be living with dementia. The starting point for all of them was an immediate awareness of the issue, and a patient approach. For example, if the sufferer was in a group of people the dishes would be brought out in stages so that the others could claim their dishes and the final dish would be brought for the sufferer to avoid confusion.

In extreme circumstances, if someone with dementia becomes upset and is “noisy”, said Williams, he or she can be encouraged to move to a special area of the restaurant which has been provided away from the other tables for just such eventualities, where a partner or carer can help calm the situation.

Another problem that arises is when a sufferer goes to the toilet alone and does not return. The usual difficulty they have is that while the toilet door is easily marked outside they become confused when confronted with several doors, including cubicles, inside the toilet and can’t find the exit.

Personal experience

Williams began working for DFK after his experience of caring for his elderly father, who once disappeared only to be found in his dark cellar tearing up old newspapers. After various community development and race relations jobs in Rochdale and Bradford he now helps to run dementia-friendly activities for the black and minority ethnicity community in Keighley.

Azeems owner, Barkat Ali, has also seen family members live with dementia and was enthusiastic when Williams approached him.

“There’s no word in Urdu or Punjabi for dementia but we understand it with words which mean forgetful, stressed or anxious,” said Ali. “We realise that anyone who has an issue, perhaps by saying they didn’t order the dish that is served to them, isn’t doing it deliberately. It’s a short-term memory that’s the problem.

“It’s important for staff not to over-react when that happens and we are very grateful for the training given to us. It’s been a real eye-opener.”

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