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Dining out with dementia

Would you love to take your elderly parent out to lunch or dinner but are daunted by the prospect of taking him or her anywhere other than the nearest day centre or dementia café? Why not try your local, suggests Emma Outten?

If your mum or dad is living with dementia, the thought of taking them out for a nice pub lunch might seem completely off the menu – what if they wander off or take forever to eat, for example? And yet dementia friendly pub lunches have gained momentum in Norfolk over the past couple of years.

They began in West Norfolk, in 2015, thanks to a team of Development Workers in Adult Social Services at Norfolk County Council.

Gemma Liczbinski, a former Development Worker in West Norfolk, started the project in just one pub: The Chequers in Wimbotsham. It’s since been joined by The Anvil in Congham and The Chequers in Feltwell.

She says: ‘We began to encourage this initiative across Norfolk. This community idea is a low level community way of supporting people living with dementia and their families, providing a safe place to enjoy some together time in a way that individuals would have done previously.’

Gemma’s replacement, Rose Waterman, says that dementia friendly pub lunches offer an opportunity for people living with dementia and their carers to come out and socialise with others. ‘The pubs and staff are all dementia friendly and provide a relaxed information place for people to socialise – and they provide occasional entertainment, games, and speakers, too.’

The Anvil, run by Kath and Karl Long, has recently re-launched its dementia friendly pub lunches (on the first Thursday of the month), complete with a new menu, with Kath saying: ‘Bookings of any size are welcome, as are all carers and anyone who wants to come along and have a look.’

At the so-called dementia and disability friendly ‘community lunch’, you and your mum and/or dad can enjoy two courses for £8 from a carefully selected menu (for example, mains such as breaded cod with chips, peas and salad; and desserts such as their signature raspberry Eton mess); and you can sit in a separate room, if you prefer. Wheelchairs are welcome, the staff are friendly and helpful, plus there’s live music sing a longs with Harvey, starting at 1pm, with songs from the past.

Over at The Chequers in Wimbotsham, the dementia friendly lunch takes place on the last Thursday of every month, and the pub has created a relaxed atmosphere for people living with dementia and their carers to come to, by offering a home-cooked meal and a dessert for just £5. It has disabled access, free WiFi and is also dog friendly – and if there are any special dietary requirements these can be arranged at the time of booking.

How do carers benefit from the experience? Kim Brockhouse, who hosts the pub with her aunt, says: ‘They have found it helpful and relaxing to be in a normal social environment that is dementia friendly, as they don’t feel under pressure to explain behaviour or be concerned if the person they are caring for decides to have a wander or takes their time eating – and they can chat and connect with other carers.’

Whereas, the Chequers in Feltwell has been working closely with not-for-profit organisation, Pub is the Hub, to make their pub more of a focal point in their community, and offers a dementia friendly lunch, on the first Wednesday of the month.

Outside of West Norfolk, The Robert Kett in Wymondham and at least six other pubs have tried launching dementia friendly lunches (with varying degrees of success) and remain generally dementia friendly.

Debra Morris, Development Worker Team Leader for Adult Social Services at County Hall, explains how it works: ‘The idea is for the pub staff to have a very basic awareness of dementia and this is easily achieved by becoming a Dementia Friend – either by attending (or hosting) a short awareness session or even more easily by undertaking a short online activity on the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends website.’

The Cellar House in Eaton, for example, has its very own Dementia Friendly Ambassador, Becca, who is supported by the local Eaton Dementia Friends group (which had its official launch at the pub recently). Owner Victoria MacDonald says of Becca: ‘She has been trained to advise us at the pub about issues which might affect our customers with dementia, and she is arranging further intensive training for our other team members.’

Victoria adds: ‘Staff from our other sites (The White Lodge in Attleborough and The Old Ram at Tivetshall) will also join in the training so we are sharing our learning across the group. We’d be delighted to work with any groups who want to set up dementia Friendly Attleborough or Tivetshall.’

Current special dementia friendly events at The Cellar House include a ‘Monday Movies’ screening on the morning of the second Monday of each month.

And the latest pub to announce itself as dementia friendly is The Copper Beech in Costessey – which will be hosting a new support group for carers of people living with dementia.

It’s not just pubs offering dementia friendly lunches – The Bawdeswell Garden Centre and the Narthex Cathedral Café in Norwich are both known to be dementia friendly venues.

Debra Morris again: ‘We still think it’s a great concept for people living with dementia – so we continue to try to think of ways to promote it.

‘In this way we would hope to help relieve some of the social isolation felt by people living with dementia and their families.’

  • The Anvil Inn, Congham, call 01485 600625 or visit The Community Lunch takes place on the first Thursday of the month, from 12 noon to 2.30pm. · The Chequers, Wimbotsham, call 01366 386768, email [email protected], or visit The dementia friendly lunch takes place on the last Thursday of the month, from 12 noon to 2pm.
  • The Chequers, Feltwell, call 01842 827200 or visit The dementia friendly lunch takes place on the first Wednesday of the month. · The Cellar House, in Eaton, call 01603 454 511 or visit Dementia Friendly Monday Morning Movies take place on the second Monday of the month at 10am prompt.
  • The Copper Beech, Costessey, call 01603 743489 or visit · The Robert Kett, Wymondham, call 01953 606566 or visit
  • The Bawdeswell Garden Centre, call 01362 688387 visit
  • The Narthex Cathedral Café, call 01603 624615 or visit
  • Fur & Feather Inn, Woodbastwick, call 01603 7200003 or visit