Toolbox Marketing undergoes Dementia Training

Provided by Joanne Mountjoy-Dixon – Chair Thetford & District Dementia Support Group on-site at Toolbox Marketing.

Jo was the dementia Manager for the Alzheimer’s Society and worked with 300 patients for 4 years inside Thetford. After costing issues was let go and founded Thetford & District Dementia Support Group which runs every Friday with about 45-50 people a week in attendance which range from 70 years old to 93 at various stages.

Dementia is a terminal condition with no current cure. There are roughly 994,000 people living with dementia in the UK, which will peak at over one million by 2030. Dementia accounted for 11.25% of deaths in England and Wales in 2022, compared to 3.3% of deaths caused by COVID-19. It is the only condition among the top 10 causes of death without a treatment or cure.

Dementia is an umbrella term which covers a collection of symptoms including memory loss. There are roughly 200 recorded types of dementia, one being Alzheimer’s. General symptoms can include loss of memory, mood changes and communication issues, although these can be indicative of other problems and is a non-exhaustive list.

‘Once you have met one person with dementia you have met one person with dementia’ – Tom Kitwood was the first in his field to look at people diagnosed with dementia and see beyond the diagnosis. It is not a natural form of ageing and many can still live a healthy life alongside their diagnosis.

Provided with sensory deprivation glasses, we were plunged into a vision that provided a small insight into some visual issues which can come alongside dementia. Often, dark objects such as doormats and rugs can be perceived as holes in the ground or shiny surfaces as water covered. This extends to mirrors where people can have a loss of self and believe the reflection to be someone else. These issues can make people feel disoriented and scared. The visual triggers can also be caused by colours as there could be long-term connotations that come with certain colours.

Only 7% of communication is via the spoken word and the rest is through body language. This can include listening to what someone is saying, observing how they are responding. Consider speed, pace and tone of voice while being aware not to overload with information. Asking ‘Can I help you, please?’ is much easier to understand than a variety of questions to cover all bases. After providing a question, allow processing time to understand before following up with another question. If you can minimise background noise this can increase the ability to focus and understand.

It is important to not try to finish someone’s sentences, avoid negative statements and treat repetitive questions with fresh perspectives; Things like these can be corrective and cause a lapse of confidence.

There are various issues which can be addressed inside the shopping environment such as adding frosting to windows or mirrors to ease these issues. Having mirrors opposite doors can be very difficult as it could prevent someone’s exits or entrances. Visual-spatial issues can be triggered by dull lighting and ensuring stairways are well-lit are important as dark-spaces can be frightening.

Having a member of staff on hand to provide a personalised shopping experience can become essential for those with navigation issues. A ‘green’ object might be easier to find when someone shows you broccoli. Signage for toilets, checkouts and exits is essential for many people, especially with spatial-directional issues including not knowing the difference between right and left. Pictorial signage is a lot easier to understand than written words.

As a disease, dementia affects the older generation more severely, and in today’s digital age it is key to acknowledge their daily experiences alongside their condition. Keeping shopping accessible is paramount as it could be the only social interaction some people may have. Being pushed away from a supermarket especially can not only prevent someone from the key groceries and food they require but also remove their socialisation and begin to minimise their mobility.

For many, long-term memory survives and so entertaining this and providing heritage photographs can be very comforting and entertaining for people with dementia. Events or competitions on identifying shops or locations can be very stimulating for people; It can be important for jogging memory or providing something to focus on or think about.

Music is known to be comforting and providing seating for people can provide comfort and a required rest bite so long as it is at a level height to make the standing up again process as joint-friendly as possible.

Mindful colouring and pictorial-based jigsaw puzzles are great for sparks of enjoyment and focus. With jigsaws it is paramount these are image-based and not shape-orientated. Games such as marbles, skittles and connect four are great for inspiring competition and social interaction.

Often, communication and bringing forward an essence of social interaction should be the focus of any social events or competitions designed to include people with dementia.

Making shopping centres and stores accessible is becoming part of a key conversation for many conditions and disabilities and including dementia conditions in accessibility reports, is vital to ensuring a growing population is included and catered for.

Jo can be found via Thetford and district dementia support via

‘You don’t stop doing things because you get old. You get old because you stop doing things.’