Festival Foods is first local dementia friendly grocery store

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A local grocery store is now the first in the area be certified dementia friendly.

Festival Foods has been certified by the Aging and Disability Resource Center as dementia friendly.

Window clings are placed outside Festival Foods showing the grocery store has trained employees to help assist shoppers with dementia.

Dementia specialist Lisa Wells with the center says shopping may seem leisurely for some but for those with dementia it can be frightening.

‘It can be overwhelming with all those people, all those sounds, all that noise,” said Wells.

So last year, Wells began partnering with businesses around Eau Claire to become dementia friendly.

“Along with creating awareness, we're really helping people live well with dementia,” explained Wells.

Store director Jeff Engedal says becoming the first dementia friendly grocery store is a step that needed to be taken.

“I believe this has been needed mostly because everyone shops for groceries. So, I think it was the next logical step to be a dementia friendly business, to provide that extra guest service,” said Engedal.

Wells says the training takes about an hour, with the course teaching how to assist those with dementia.

“We provide information on what dementia is, what are some of the signs and symptoms, how you’d recognize them and how’d you communicate with that person,” explained Wells.

She added, “Instead of telling the person it’s in aisle 6 or aisle 4, they would take them exactly to those products and actually grocery shop.”

The environment is also taken into account, with the store considering lighting and signage.

Engedal says the employees will now take extra time to assist those with dementia.

“Alzheimer's and dementia is growing so we wanted to have another form of good service and compassion for anyone who shops our store who is suffering from that disease,” said Engedal.

Deli kitchen manager Chris Bridges took part in the training; he says it believes it’s beneficial.

“It's very refreshing to see there's an actual movement towards that within local business here in Eau Claire,” said Bridges.

Bridges says his grandmother had Alzheimer’s and passed away about a month ago. He says having that personal connection makes the effort all that more meaningful.

He said, “We want to have the community know that we're here to lend a helping hand, that we're there to care for our guests and be there when they need assistance.”

Bridges is not along with having a personal connection to dementia.

Engedal says out of 28 Festival managers that took part in the training 26 had relatives effected by Alzheimer’s or dementia.

He says it hits close to home

Wells says it will continue to try to make as many businesses dementia friendly as possible.

She says the center had cards that say, “I have dementia, please be patient with me,” that can be picked up at the center and used at dementia friendly businesses.

She added, “We don’t want people with dementia to feel isolated, we want them out in the community, we want them in these businesses and feeling understood and not so afraid to get out.”

Wells says there are about 20 businesses in Eau Claire that are certified dementia friendly.

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