If you've been to the Black Pelican Oceanfront Restaurant lately, you may have seen a purple seahorse on the wall.
It is one of 12 restaurants that boast the symbol. They are part of The Healthy Carolinians of the Outer Banks Dementia Task Force, a collaborative effort between companies, government agencies, restaurants and The Outer Banks Hospital to train employees to become demented, said task volunteer Jan Collins.
She and two other members have spent the last three years training restaurant staff on how to interact with people suffering from dementia. Tuesday, she went to a meeting of the Outer Banks Restaurant Association at Black Pelican to have more restaurants on board.
"We had five in 2017," Collins said. "We're 12, but how many restaurants do we have down here?"
He wants to get at least 50 percent of the local restaurants to sign up, he said. Or all of them.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the signs of dementia include the loss of memory that disrupts everyday life, such as getting lost in a familiar place, repeating questions and problems in managing money and paying bills.
This can be difficult for families and health care workers, said Collins, who spent eight years taking care of his mother who was suffering from dementia. Some people feel "desperation and isolation" because they can not leave their homes.
The task force hopes to relieve the caregivers, he said.
They also want to insert the seahorse symbol in the menus and start conversations about dementia and local resources available, such as Alzheimer's support groups and home care, so that caregivers can go out knowing that their loved ones are cared for at home.
"There are so many people in need of assistance and we have a lot of resources, but if we do not talk about it, they will not find it," Collins said.
So, what is training for dementia?
Employees watch a presentation on dementia, its signs, role-playing games and take a quiz about how to respond when dementia patients enter restaurants. Each employee receives a certificate once the training is completed. The presentation lasts 20 minutes and is free for restaurants, Collins said.
Collins shows employees the most effective ways to work with customers who suffer from dementia, such as lowering their talking voices, looking at them from the front or side, putting food on a plate that makes it easier to see and redirect conversations or compliment the diners when you are agitated.
"What you're doing is spreading the discussion by going to another topic," Collins said.
Another example is to refrain from discussing with clients who have dementia, he said. If a person forgets his order or says that the server brought the wrong dish, the server should lower his voice, say that they will bring the correct item, go to the kitchen and bring back the same dish. The customer might remember to order it after all, Collins said.
Dear Godwin was at the Tuesday meeting. He is assistant general manager and marketing director of Blue Water Grill in Manteo and Blue Moon Beach Grill in Nags Head, he said. About 60 of its employees completed training last May.
They received positive feedback from families, he said.
"More establishments, whether it's a restaurant or a store, all we can do to help the community is a big thing," he said.
A man who has dementia enters the daily Black Pelican, said Summer Copeland, who works there. It was the first restaurant to complete dementia training.
"We have a lot of servers 19 and 20," said Copeland. "They have no idea what dementia really is, they went to training and opened their eyes to the fact that these people are not rude or can not remember."
The task force would like to have on-line pharmacies, grocery stores and cafes like Starbucks, Collins said.
For now, they are starting in their own backyard.
Saleen Martin, 757-446-2027, email@example.com