SHOPS across Wearside are to set to become more “dementia friendly” after several firms signed up to a new agreement.
A number of stores in Sunderland and Washington have pledged to support the Alzheimer’s Society initiative.
The move aims to make shops more accessible to those suffering from the brain disease, with staff given training on how to become more dementia friendly.
Homebase, Argos and branches of Lloyds Banking Group have already signed up, as well as Marks & Spencer.
It comes as actor Timothy West revealed his wife Prunella Scales is in the early stages of dementia.
In a new TV documentary, he talks about coping with the condition and says Ms Scales – best known as Sybil in Fawlty Towers – has “a sort of mild Alzheimer’s”.
It is estimated that more than 3,300 people are living in Sunderland with dementia, with many of those still undiagnosed with the condition.
Symptoms include memory loss, having problems performing simple tasks, or experiencing mood swings.
Alzheimer’s Society regional operations manager for the North East, Hazel Cuthbertson, today called for more businesses to follow suit.
She said: “Many people with dementia tell us that shopping and visiting their local high street can be stressful, but this announcement brings us a step closer to becoming a dementia-friendly society.
“We are now calling on other businesses to follow the lead of Marks & Spencer, Homebase and Argos.
“As Dementia Friends, they will enable people with dementia to feel more independent when they go out, from being more patient with a customer paying at a till point, to communicating more clearly over the telephone, there are lots of ways Dementia Friends can help.
“These actions and interactions could mean the difference between someone remaining an active member of their community rather than potentially becoming isolated in their own home away from familiar places and people.”
Support worker Liz Williams, who runs information sessions as a Dementia Friends Champion, welcomed the new move.
“The Dementia Friends campaign is brilliant because it helps people to begin to understand what life is like for someone with dementia,” said Liz. “Many people have misconceptions of what dementia is, such as thinking that it’s a natural part of ageing.
“Offering Dementia Friends sessions to staff in shops like Marks & Spencer, Argos, Homebase and Lloyds Banking Group is a fantastic way of ensuring people with dementia feel confident enough to continue living their lives to the full after a diagnosis.”