65 year old Marilyn Palmer from Kirby Bedon cares for her husband Doug, 75, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2013. Recently, Marilyn became separated from Doug in John Lewis, Norwich. After searching the store for some time and failing to find him, she became distressed. Immediately, two members of staff came to her assistance and within 30 minutes, they’d managed to locate Doug using the store’s CCTV cameras. Marilyn says the staff, who’d recently received Dementia Friends training, were wonderful:
“They were like a big comfort blanket – whisking me away to customer services and reassuring me that they would be able to find Doug. After a short while, a security guard told me they’d found Doug on Ber Street and he was with a member of staff who would stay with him until I went to collect him. It was such a relief. I was so grateful – not just for what happened but for how they treated me. They were so kind.”
The next time Marilyn went to John Lewis – the same staff remembered who she was and were able to share a joke with Doug about not getting lost again. She says it helps when people know and understand about Doug’s condition and he agrees:
“I find it hard to understand that some people with dementia don’t want people to know. I prefer people to know as it makes it easier for Marilyn. Why hide it?”
It’s not just John Lewis in Norwich whose staff have shown consideration to Marilyn as a carer. She and Doug often breakfast at Cafe Bar Marzano in The Forum, Norwich. Staff at the cafe know the couple well and remember their regular order which means that when Doug goes to the counter to order, staff will always bring over their usual breakfast regardless:
“I come to Marzano and sit down. Doug goes up to the counter. They know what the order is so they just take the card from Doug and then bring the order over. By doing this they’re actually caring for me – this is my rest. It’s also good for Doug as it means he’s doing something for me for a change and it helps with his self-esteem.”
Murray Davies is Assistant Manager at Cafe Bar Marzano and has also been trained as a Dementia Friend. He says it’s a community café and they’re more than happy to help out:
“We’re a big friendly place and most of us who work here are parents. Helping other parents out is second nature and it doesn’t take a big leap to extend that to helping anyone else who needs it. We have a stroke support group who meet here, a sign language group and many more who come and feel welcome.”
Marilyn and Doug also visit The Waterside café in Broadland Business Park where leaseholder Chris and his team show similar levels of consideration and care. Julie Izzard from Norfolk Family Carers says they’re thrilled to hear about Marilyn’s experiences and are calling on more businesses to follow suit:
“For every person who has a life-limiting illness there is likely to be a carer. To understand the stress that person may be under and to find ways to support them is invaluable. We’re encouraging more businesses to reach out and tell us what they’re doing to support carers so we can spread the word and hopefully raise awareness.”
Norfolk Family Carers provides practical and emotional support to anyone who is looking after a friend or relative – from those who have recently found themselves doing more for someone, to people who are providing round-the-clock care for a loved one. The charity has been supporting unpaid carers in Norfolk since 1993.
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