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How to help shoppers with memory problem

Author: Liz Wells

Source: Talking retail

People living with dementia might pick up the wrong item or be unable to find the right words to describe the items they need. At the checkout, they might have difficulty counting money, coping with new technology and payment methods, feeling rushed and worrying they will forget to pay.

What can store staff do to help?

One of the biggest obstacles facing people with dementia and their carers is a lack of awareness of the condition. Encouraging staff to gain even a basic understanding of dementia, through the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends information sessions, for example, can make a huge difference to people’s shopping experience.

What challenges do people with dementia face in-store?

People with dementia regularly tell the Alzheimer’s Society that shopping is one of the activities they enjoy most. People living with dementia, and their loved ones, often worry about other people’s reactions – for example, people not understanding their difficulties, staff not being confident to help, or the reaction of security staff to unusual behaviour.

What practical measures can you put in place?

Dementia affects people in different ways, which means there are so many things that businesses may not have even considered. Small changes to layout or signage can go a long way to reducing stress and confusion. For example, many shops have black mats at their entrances. To some people with dementia, these can actually appear to be holes.

What are the advantages of becoming more dementia-friendly?

Alzheimer’s Society research shows 83% of people with memory problems have switched their shopping habits to places that are more accessible. Becoming dementia-friendly will enable businesses to retain existing customers and attract new ones. Becoming a dementia-friendly retailer is not just a socially responsible step – it can also benefit businesses. Even for a small convenience store, there is a clear economic case for supporting people with dementia to use its services. This does not mean having to prioritise dementia over other conditions or disabilities. When a business gets it right for people with dementia, it gets it right for everyone.

Is there a legal obligation?

Under the Equality Act, 2010, retailers do have a legal obligation to ensure consumers are adequately protected and that access to services is as inclusive as possible. This includes making ‘reasonable adjustments’ for customers with disabilities, including people living with dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly Retail Guide provides information to support retailers and help them comply with this legislation to ensure there is no need for legal action.


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