Sainsbury’s becomes first major UK supermarket to introduce dementia-friendly toilets

It’s all thanks to one campaigning pensioner

By Jenny Cook

Sainsbury’s has become the first supermarket to introduce ‘dementia-friendly’ signs in all store toilets, thanks to a campaigning pensioner who was repeatedly forced to rescue her husband – who suffered from Alzheimer’s – as he tried to find his way to and from the loos.

The make-over will include large, colourful ‘way out’ signs to prevent confusion among customers who suffer with memory problems.

Angela’s story

Angela Clayton-Turner began her campaign after witnessing how hard it was for her husband Ted to remember where the bathroom exit was. She co-wrote an essay, published back in August in The Lancet medical journal, which highlighted just how difficult the use of public toilets could be – not just for Ted, but for anyone suffering with dementia.

Her work formed part of a growing awareness that traditional signs and lighting schemes can be disorientating for people with such neurodegenerative conditions, and now Sainsbury’s has become the first major supermarket to start working with the Alzheimer’s Society to resolve the issue. Commenting on her triumph, Angela said:

“What a result! I have been talking about the difficulty my husband had finding his way out of public toilets for some years… When caring for Ted, I had to enter the men’s loos more than I care to remember. Although he was able to use public toilets, he was unable to find his way out… It affected my dignity going into male toilets. You go in with your hands over your eyes as you aren’t quite sure what you are going to find in there.”

#Beckenham woman inspires @sainsburys to install #DementiaFriendly WAY OUT signs in all toilets. @NewsShopper Read: https://t.co/FD3Rkfiuqs pic.twitter.com/woRYpjeJHv

— AlzSoc London (@AlzSocLondon) November 8, 2017

Ted sadly passed away at the age of 75, having battled with Alzheimer’s for 18 years. Angela went on to highlight just how deeply he was affected by the disease mentally, as well as physically.

“The whole dementia process hurt Ted’s pride. You gradually find yourself unable to do all the things you once could do. So that is hard to come to terms with. Our report shows many older adults start to avoid going about their everyday lives because of the lack, or inaccessibility, of public toilets.”

Leading the way

Many hospitals have also taken measures to become more dementia-friendly over the past few years, incorporating high-contrast measures to show where the floor joins the wall, visual breaks to mark where handrails are ending and doors painted in distinctive colour. Researchers have also identified that light plays a key role for elderly people, with estimates suggesting that people over the age of 75 need roughly twice as much light as their younger contemporaries in order to see satisfactorily.

Commenting on Sainsbury’s decision, Emma Bould – programme partnership project manager at the Alzheimer’s Society – said:

“We are delighted to see toilets with dementia friendly signage being installed nationally at all Sainsbury’s stores by March 2018. Finding and exiting toilets can often be confusing for people living with dementia, causing anxiety when they are out and about. This small but significant step will enable people with dementia to quickly find the exit, while also making the route clearer to all customers.”

Angela said she was “absolutely over the moon” that Sainsbury’s had taken such a problem on board, expressing hopes that “where they lead, other organisations will follow.”

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