Dementia Friendly Places + Spaces
What makes somewhere Dementia Friendly? A question I have been asking for 7 years and now I’m starting to answer. I’ve thought about it a lot, mostly in retrospect to places I visit frequently, why do I go there? First and foremost, the people of course, the atmosphere and the ambiance of a place has such a big part of the choices around where to dine, but with Martha there is more to consider than just how nice the people are, so I am wanting to create a place where I tell you about all the beautiful places that we visit and that are accomodating to our needs. There is now a tab where I will add them all in. But, here is a little rundown of the things I will be covering.
The Location. Location is pretty important, since we are based in Auckland most places I talk about will be here. But, location plays a big part and of course each thing feeds into one another, location, car park, accessibility. All pretty relevant to determining if somewhere is Dementia Friendly!
The Parking. This is really important, even if you have a mobility parking pass, some places are just easier to get too than others, stairs, slopes, gravel vs. pavement.
The access. Again much like the parking this is so important to assess, are there any stairs to get in, is there a slope, are the doors wide enough, is the carpark close enough?
The layout, the atmosphere, the seating. Navigating spaces can be a challenge even for the able bodied, able minded, a lot of restaurants and café’s like to pack you in – on of course they should be – but if you are dealing with slow shuffled movements, wheelchairs, walkers then navigating a space can be even more difficult. Equally the atmosphere plays a big part, how loud the music is, how close you are seated by someone, the temperature all play a huge part in the experience to being Dementia Friendly.
The tables and chairs. This isn’t something I have ever thought to be relevant, but really it has been in our journey. Martha’s comfort is always my top priority, is she comfy on her seat, is it easy enough to get into and out of, is it the right height and close enough to the table.
The menu. Over the years, especially since Martha doesn’t have any teeth, navigating menus has been challenging, who wants to pay $12 for scrambled eggs when she isn’t going to eat anything but the egg! Also as time goes on I have discovered that simplicity is the best policy when it comes to Martha’s diet. Finding affordable, delicious, easy to eat food is important, as food is such a beautiful pleasure even with a disappearing memory Martha still finds a lot of joy in the food she eats. Also drinks are a big one, and do they have straws??? Cringe I know, straws! But most places now offer an alternative to plastic straws, either paper, glass or metal (I usually try and have one with me anyway) but sometimes drinking when you have Dementia can be difficult.
The bathrooms. If you need a bathroom, where is it? Is it easy to get to? Is it big enough for 2 people? Is it wheelchair / walker friendly? All important questions that need to be answered when considering if a place is Dementia Friendly.
The people. And lastly, my favourite bit, the people. Are the staff nice? Are they accomodating? Are the general population receiving? It is so complex, and probably the hardest of them all to answer, I have also been fortunate enough to have some really beautiful experiences with Martha in cafes and restaurants purely because of the people.
My hope in all of this, is to connect caregivers and their loved ones with places and spaces that are accomodating to the challenging needs that caregivers have. It is hard enough to be in that role and sometimes the need to go out and feel normal can be pretty challenging too, so here we are, finding all the places that are delicious, safe and comfortable for me and My Mum Martha.