Erasing Boundaries for Business: Dementia Inclusion Training

How can we create inclusive communities that enable individuals living with cognitive impairment or dementia to be more engaged and socially integrated?

Elder Care Alliance is addressing this issue through development of innovative programs such as Erasing Boundaries for Business, a training program in the pilot stage to help create inclusivity for individuals living with dementia or cognitive impairment.

Dementia Inclusive Training Rolls Out in San Mateo

Carmel Dolcine-Joseph, ECA’s director of clinical services and memory care programming, developed the curriculum and conducted the first training in February at Qube Bar & Grill. The restaurant shares a campus with The Villa at San Mateo, an Elder Care Alliance community for independent older adults.

One of the primary goals of the training was to provide Qube’s staff and management with an educational foundation and practical skillset to help serve people with cognitive impairment.

Cognitive impairment can be due to a variety of reasons, including dementia, neurological disorders, brain trauma, alcoholism, past drug abuse or use of disorienting pharmaceuticals, Dolcine-Joseph noted.

“I empathize greatly with the challenges the staff has faced serving an older adult clientele. Restaurant employees oftentimes – and unbeknownst to them – have a great deal of facetime with adults experiencing a variety of cognitive issues, so it’s important for them to have the tools they need to provide appropriate service,” she said.

Identifying and Responding to Cognitive Impairment

The Qube training program explored how to detect when someone has a cognitive impairment, what are the major forms of dementia and other cognitive impairments, how to communicate with a person with cognitive impairment, and situational simulations of a restaurant experience.

Using the train-the-trainer model, Dolcine-Joseph directed participants on how they can share dementia-friendly communication techniques with other restaurant employees and future new hires.

“Qube is a diner-style restaurant that appeals to the wider community which includes an older demographic,” Dolcine-Joseph said. “Now, it’s also a place where people living with dementia can have a stress-free, non-combative and high-quality dining experience that meets their needs and expectations.”

She added there are many restaurants throughout the SF Bay Area’s older communities that would benefit from similar training, including San Mateo, Burlingame, Daly City, Walnut Creek, Hayward, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley and Martinez.

Staff Feedback & Key Takeaways

 Qube staffers were relieved to learn there are now tactics they can use to lessen the confusion, stress and disorientation they experience when serving a patron who appears to have cognitive impairment, communicative challenges or an extremely short attention span.

“It was wonderful seeing the staff’s eagerness and willingness to learn and apply what they were taught,” Dolcine-Joseph said. “They also realized that the techniques don’t just apply to people living with dementia. I anticipate that this will also be true for future training recipients.”

 Tips to Improve Communication with People Living with Dementia

 Businesses that want to become more inclusive for people with cognitive impairment can contact Elder Care Alliance for training. Dolcine-Joseph offers ten tips to follow when communicating with a person living with dementia:

  1. Avoid using colloquialisms or slang. Speak simply.
  2. Do not speak fast or make quick movements.
  3. Crouch or kneel to establish eye level contact.
  4. Collect and store the patron’s personal and emergency contact information to be used if the patron becomes frustrated or inconsolable.
  5. Use preferred names and pronouns.
  6. Introduce yourself repeatedly to begin each statement or conversation.
  7. Speak slowly, listen intently, wait for a response and avoid interrupting the speaker.
  8. Limit choices to no more than three to avoid overwhelming the individual.
  9. Remember past encounters and try to anticipate needs to reduce stress.
  10. Use visual menus or visual lists to help identify choices.

Elder Care Alliance’s Role in Helping Erase Boundaries

Elder Care Alliance is passionate about serving older adults and people living with dementia. As such, Dolcine-Joseph said, it’s imperative for the organization to play a leading role in supporting them where they live and helping them to thrive – whether that’s within an ECA community or in the community at large.

“We live in an aging society with an increasing number of independent and semi-independent people who experience cognitive impairment or dementia. Our goal is to extend the Erasing Boundaries for Business training efforts to any company or organization that interfaces with the adult and senior populations,” Dolcine-Joseph said.

“Our role as a steward of care has no walls, boundaries or limitations. We want to help facilitate change everywhere to create communities that are inclusive.”