Forget me not: Restaurant introduces dementia-friendly dining

A look at a dementia friendly menu from Amazing Joe's Grill in Columbus, Ind., pictured, Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. Amazing Joe's has partnered with Thrive Alliance and Dementia Friends of South Central Indiana to offer dementia friendly dining hours once at month. Mike Wolanin | The Republic

A local restaurant will be among the first restaurants in Indiana to offer dementia-friendly dining when it opens its doors to patrons Sunday afternoon.

Amazing Joe’s, 2607 Central Ave., will set aside special hours one day a month to create a pleasant experience for those living with dementia and their families and caregivers.

“We’re having a silver tsunami of people that are aging; there’s 10,000 people a day turning 65, of course not everybody that ages is going to get (dementia) nor do you have to be aging to get this disease, but what we really look at is our community, is it really dementia friendly?” said Sue Lamborn, outreach and community relations manager of Thrive Alliance.

Thrive Alliance offers aging and disability resources for Hoosier individuals and family members to assess existing and anticipated long-term needs. Through a partnership with CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions, Thrive Alliance is launching a Dementia Friends pilot program in Bartholomew County.

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A Dementia Friend is someone who wants to make a positive difference in the lives of people living with dementia through increased awareness and support.

“I think we all want everybody to feel welcomed in our community and that goes for restaurants and banks and movie theaters and shopping centers — do they feel connected?” Lamborn said. “We are looking in all of our sectors to see if we can be that agent of change.”

The initiative began earlier this year when local first responders were trained as Dementia Friends. Firefighters, paramedics, police officers and sheriff deputies from across Bartholomew County learned how to identify someone who may have dementia and how body language, maintaining eye contact and even the tone of voice can help calm someone with dementia, especially in an emergency.

This month, Thrive Alliance has extended the initiative to Amazing Joe’s Grill in Columbus.

The restaurant, owned by Nick Grams, will be among the first in Indiana to offer a dementia-friendly dining day through the Dementia Friends initiative, Lamborn said.

From 2-4 p.m. Sunday, anyone can come in for a more relaxed atmosphere catered to individuals with dementia.

The Bartholomew County Dementia Friends steering committee, made up of employees from Thrive Alliance, Our Hospice, Just Friends and other local organizations, worked together to create menus with specially-selected choices of the restaurant’s favorite dishes, using larger fonts and color photos for patrons to easily identify what they want to order.

The menu features seven entrees compared to the dozens of items offered on a traditional menu. Lamborn said this helps eliminate any confusion. Most of the items are finger foods, including chicken tenders and sandwiches, making it easier for individuals with motor-coordination difficulties to consume their food on their own.

“A lot of those people who helped create the menu had personal experience of going out to eat with loved ones who suffer from dementia,” said Alan Clark, communications coordinator at Thrive Alliance. “This menu is simplified. These are some of the favorites as well as things that would be suitable.”

When a guest requests a dementia-friendly menu, called the “Forget-Me-Not Menu,” during the dementia-friendly hours, Grams will work to place them as close to the kitchen as possible, using the smell to increase their appetite. The music will also be turned down to a lower volume to avoid any over-stimulation.

Amazing Joe’s wait staff will be trained according to the Dementia Friends initiative to better serve individuals with dementia.

“People with dementia need to feel supported. They need to feel like they’re connected and that they can go into a place such that we would go into,” Lamborn said. “We want to eliminate the stigma of this disease. People with dementia are whole people. They live a quality of life that’s high. This is why this initiative exists — we want people to lead a high-quality life and feel engaged as much as they can.”

Lamborn said the goal is to raise awareness of the disease and find additional community partners who would be willing to open their businesses for dementia-friendly hours.

“It would be great if the whole downtown area, all the shop vendors, could have their shops and stores and restaurants be dementia-friendly for anybody to stop by,” Lamborn said. “We want people engaged. We want people to feel connected. That’s what we want; we want the county and Columbus to become dementia-friendly.”

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What: Dementia-friendly dining

Where: Amazing Joe’s Grill, 2607 Central Ave.

When: 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday

Who: Open to the public

Why: Amazing Joe’s Grill is one of the first restaurants in Indiana to offer dementia-friendly dining arrangements for individuals with dementia and their families and caregivers. The restaurant will set aside special hours one day a month to create a pleasant experience for those living with dementia. A special menu features selected choices of Amazing Joe’s favorite dishes.