Indiana Restaurant Introduces Dementia-Friendly Dining

Nick Grams, the managing partner of Amazing Joe's restaurant in Columbus, Indiana, lost his mother to dementia earlier this year. For the last 14 months of her life, she was in assisted living. Grams would take her out for meals at restaurants, but sometimes it could be difficult: too much noise and commotion, sometimes a forgotten order.

But since he runs a restaurant, Grams has the power to change things, at least in his own small sphere. So starting this week, Amazing Joe's will become dementia-friendly for one Sunday afternoon a month, WISH-TV of Indianapolis reports. Customers with dementia and their dining companions will be seated in a quieter back room, close to the kitchen and its smells, and have the option of ordering from a special limited menu with pictures.

Amazing Joe's developed the concept in partnership with Thrive Alliance, a state-run aging agency in central Indiana. Sue Lamborn, Thrive Alliance's outreach manager, explained to WISH-TV that it's important for dementia patients to be able to do things they enjoy and live in the moment. "Sometimes that person doesn't want to go out and engage or be social or do the things they used to do," she said. "We all want people to feel like they belong and that's not going to happen unless we start doing more initiatives like this."

The Amazing Joe's location in Muncie will also be starting dementia-friendly dining hours soon.

Although it's too late for his own family, Grams is looking forward to seeing how the experiment works out. "Hopefully somebody will be touched by this," he said, "and they'll be able to follow in the footsteps of what we have started here."