As the nation marked Dementia Awareness Week (15-21 May), the team at Specsavers in Edinburgh is supporting Dementia Friends, an Alzheimer’s Society initiative, to help people develop an understanding of dementia and turn it into action to support customers and employees who are affected by the condition.

National initiative for Specsavers team

Specsavers employees nationwide are completing a Dementia awareness programme. There are two levels of accreditation, with the 18,000 UK staff encouraged to complete the first stage during National Learning at Work Week. In doing so they become recognised as a Dementia Friends, with a badge to wear on their uniforms to indicate their increased level of dementia awareness to their customers.

Tracy Galloway, store director of Specsavers at Fort Kinnaird said: ‘Being more aware of dementia is an incredibly positive development for our team and our offering to customers. ‘I always thought dementia was all to do with someone’s memory – but it is much more than that. By uncovering the truth about dementia it really opened my eyes to how at Specsavers, when performing our daily duties, we can all take a little time to support and care.’

Skills and supports for all customers

Dementia Friends is completed online and entails watching a series of scenario based videos. The second is a classroom session which builds on the skills, helping participants to wage positive relationships with people with dementia. All Specsavers support offices staff are also being offered the training.

Specsavers learning and development manager Samantha Jessop said: ‘By providing dementia awareness training we are taking necessary steps to equip all colleagues with the necessary skills to support all of our customers and continue to provide the same excellent service that we pride ourselves upon, regardless of the personal struggles any of our customers may be facing. I’m delighted we are now offering this as part of our core training offer.’

The comprehensive training covers all aspects of dementia and discusses how it affects people in different ways. With particular relevance to Specsavers it also describes how senses can be affected, including sight and hearing.

Understanding the effects

Specsavers clinical spokesman Dr Nigel Best added: ‘People with dementia may experience problems with their sight which cause them to misinterpret the world around them. In some cases, those living with dementia can experience hallucinations.

‘Specific types of dementia can also damage the visual system and cause visuoperceptual difficulties. These include Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Rarer forms of dementia, such as posterior cortical atrophy can also cause visuoperceptual difficulties. Therefore it is vitally important that we recognise customers with dementia so that we can identify and look after their eyecare needs to the best of our ability.’

Specsavers has stores across the city centre at Shandwick Place, North Bridge, Leith, Morningside, Fort Kinnaird, Gyle Centre and Cameron Toll.

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