Dementia Friendly Huntington makes connection between dementia, businesses

A grant-funded coalition in Huntington is working to make connections between businesses and those with dementia through training and community activities. 

“The disease is no prevention no cure,” David Nisbet, founder of Dementia Friendly Huntington, said. “So we need to figure out how, as a community, to help this segment.”

Founded in 2018, Dementia Friendly Huntington aims to raise awareness of the disease in the area, not only to help those directly impacted, but their caregivers and loved ones, as well.

Nisbet’s father suffered from Lewy body dementia, which he said led him to want to bring further awareness to the disease.

“I wanted to do something,” Nisbet said.

As the owner of Valvoline Express Care, Nisbet said he began by distributing the 10 warning signs of dementia and help line for caregivers in his stores across the Tri-State.

In 2017, Nisbet became heavily involved with the Alzheimer’s Association of Charleston.

“The Alzheimer’s Association called me and said, ‘there’s a federal grant available, we think you should go for it,’” Nisbet said. “I added my own twist: dementia friendly is business friendly.” 

Dementia Friendly Huntington’s main goal, Nisbet said, is to prove that having a better understanding of dementia is good for the community.

“It is truly like trying to bust through the glass ceiling,” Nisbet said. “It takes more time than anyone could imagine.”

Since the coalition’s start in 2018, Nisbet said he has hosted a lunch and learn, spoke in front of city council and the mayor to discuss the organization’s efforts, joined the Open to All campaign, which Nisbet said expands the way he can communicate, and began free training sessions.

Nisbet also said the first ‘Dementia Friendly Restaurant Night’ has been confirmed for August 7 at Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House.

“We are going to launch there because it meets all the criteria,” Nisbet said. “It’s a nice, quiet place to eat, it’s on the first floor, parking is pretty good, so everything fits. We met with one of the owners and they said they were 100% on board.”

Nisbet said training will take place beforehand, and if all goes to plan, ‘Dementia Friendly Restaurant Night’ will reoccur the first Wednesday of each month.

“Through our efforts and through an action of change, through introducing a ‘Dementia Friendly Restaurant Night,’ my goal is that others will see and think, ‘wow, they’re packed. They’re full. We want that rush, how do we do it?’ And of course the way to do that is through the training,” Nisbet said. “Be willing to go through training. It doesn’t cost anything, we don’t charge anything for the materials, we just need some time and effort from these businesses that want to join the force of being dementia friendly.”

Nisbet said it is important to begin making these connections to give those affected a safe space outside of their homes.

“There’s always a second victim with dementia, the one with the disease, and the primary caregiver, because they’re giving up everything. They have to transition from spouse to caretaker, and it’s definitely a different role. We need to help them understand that the community can help them,” Nisbet said. “They don’t know where it’s a safe zone, they don’t have any safe zones but their house, so they stay home and are scared to go out because of what their loved ones might say or do. We need to let them know that there are safe places in the community where they can go and be welcomed.”

Hanna Pennington can be contacted at [email protected].