Making security more dementia-friendly
As a security professional, you can make a difference to those with dementia by understanding more about the condition so you can recognise it and make small dementia-friendly changes.
What is dementia?
Two thirds of people with dementia still live in their community. Visiting local shops, train stations, airports, sports venues and tourist sites provides rich opportunities for people living with dementia for socialising and entertainment. However, people with dementia may find these outings more difficult in a number of ways or may display unusual behaviour, which for many can discourage them from going out.
Only 47% of people with dementia say that they feel part of their community and 28% of people living with dementia have said they have stopped leaving the house altogether. At Alzheimer’s Society, we want to create a dementia-friendly society and support people with dementia to continue to live well.
Although the most well-known symptom of dementia is difficulties with short term memory, it is important to remember that dementia is not just about losing your memory.
The word ‘dementia’ describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss, but can also cause difficulties with thinking, problem-solving, language, perception and mobility.
Challenges that people with dementia may face that security officers should be aware of include:
- Problems when paying, such as remembering PINs, having trouble counting money, or worrying that they will forget to pay;
- Language problems, including difficulty following a conversation or finding the right word;
- Becoming confused about where they are or having difficulties when trying to navigate around a store, a station or airport;
- Displaying changes in their mood, such as becoming frustrated or upset.
People with dementia have told us that they worry about other people’s reactions when they’re out and about, and specifically worry about the reaction of security staff to unusual behaviour.
A diagnosis of dementia does not mean it is not possible to live well. Their condition does not stop them from doing the things that matter the most.
So how can security professionals support people affected by dementia to still go to the places that are important to them?
How to approach someone who looks confused
There may be times when you think a customer or visitor seems disorientated or confused and may have dementia or another condition that causes confusion. Don’t be afraid of approaching them to check they’re okay but do consider your language and demeanour.
Speak calmly and slowly, using short, simple sentences. Take your time to explain and listen to their answers and make sure your body language and facial expressions are welcoming. Using non-verbal communication, like pointing in a certain direction, can help make your language clearer.
Remember that if a person with dementia has become lost or confused, they may be scared. Reassure them as many times as necessary that you’re there to help and stay with them if possible.
Contact the police as soon as possible to report that you believe you’ve found a vulnerable person.
Adapt your environment
Dementia is not just about losing your memory and can also cause issues with perception and other senses. This means the environment can cause significant challenges. Where possible, you should look to make small changes in your workplace, or speak to whoever’s responsible for the environment to make suggestions:
- Adjust your noise levels: turn off or have calming music, turn the store’s phones down, or arrange for a quiet room to carry out your service.
- Ensure you have clear signage to key facilities, including the exit and toilets, to aid navigation.
- Black mats by the front door can look like a hole to someone with perception difficulties – can they be removed or at least be in a colour similar to the rest of the floor?
- Having seating available at key points can encourage people with dementia to visit again, as they know there is somewhere they can have a rest.
Create a dementia-friendly workforce
To better support customers who are affected by dementia, you and all your colleagues could become Dementia Friends. Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends is changing the way people think, act and talk about dementia, reducing stigma and creating a dementia-friendly society.
Once you’ve become a Dementia Friend, you will receive a Dementia Friends badge. By wearing this on your uniform, you will demonstrate to customers that you have become a Dementia Friend, which may encourage them to approach you if they need your assistance.
Becoming a Dementia Friend takes just ten minutes and is completely free!
Visit dementiafriends.org.uk/dforganisations and use your code: city123 – get your colleagues together in a team meeting and watch the videos together.
Help us build a society where people affected by dementia feel safe and can continue to live well.
Programme Partnerships Business Officer, Alzheimer’s Society