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| Businesses serving customers with dementia | Tips for serving customers with dementia |Capacity and consent | How would you respond? |

How would you respond?

You’re working in a restaurant. A man in his seventies, whom you recognize as a regular customer, comes in and seats himself at a table. It’s snowing and it’s -15C outside. He’s in short sleeves and he has no coat. You know he’s walked here.

Consider this

It’s quite possible that this man has dementia. Maybe you’ve noted other behaviours when you’ve served him before that might suggest this to be the case. This may include one or several of the following:

  • having difficulty with routine tasks (e.g. ordering from the menu)
  • repeating the same question within a short period of time
  • looking confused or disoriented
  • being unable to follow directions
  • exhibiting unpredictable moods or behaviours

The important thing to recognize is that if he leaves the restaurant, there’s a good chance he may not find his way home safely. If he becomes lost, he’s at risk of serious injury or death, particularly considering how inappropriately he’s dressed for the weather. It’s vital that you make sure he does not leave the restaurant on his own.

Know what to say
  • Speak slowly and calmly
  • Loudness can convey anger; do not assume the man is hearing impaired
  • Use short, simple words Ask “yes” and “no” questions
  • Ask one question at a time, allowing plenty of time for response
  • If necessary, repeat the same question using the exact wording
  • People with dementia may only understand a part of the question at a time

Know what to do

  • Maintain a calm environment
  • Maintain good eye contact
  • Avoid confrontation
  • Avoid correcting or “reality checks”
  • Call police (911) for help returning the person home safely
  • Make sure someone keeps an eye on the man until the police arrive to take over

For more information on people with dementia getting lost, visit Finding Your Way www.findingyourwayontario.ca.

Is It Dementia - The Lost Passenger from Short Focus Films on Vimeo.


Last Updated: 07/23/14
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