FALL RIVER — Bristol Elder Services, striving to make the city a dementia friendly community through making local businesses aware of the condition, is extending its reach into restaurants with the Purple Table program.
CEO Nancy Mullen said Bristol Elder Services is “hoping to expand our project. It can make a difference in the lives of those with dementia, autism and other impairments.”
Some 15 businesses are now dementia friendly. Managers and workers are trained to recognize when a person needs assistance or just a little patience.
Restaurants are another area where people could benefit from a little extra care.
Often, people with physical or cognitive impairments and their families aren’t comfortable eating in restaurants, even if it’s something they used to enjoy. But with a few special and easy accommodations, eating out can be back on the menu.
Accommodations can mean anything from needing a quiet table to serving food that is not touching, or an understanding that someone afflicted may need a long time period to finish a meal or may exhibit behaviors that could draw attention.
“If everyone told us what they needed, we’d be able to accommodate everyone,” said Jenifer Apazidis, founder of the Purple Table program and owner of Red Raven, a gastropub in Acton.
That’s the idea behind Purple Table: a seat for everyone.
It allows diners to make a reservation and list their specific needs so management and servers are ready to accommodate them when they arrive.
Apazidis knows first-hand how difficult it is being a care-taker to someone with dementia. Her mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in her 50s.
In 2013, Apazidis and her husband opened their restaurant. A year later, she launched a monthly luncheon for those with dementia and their caregivers.
“It was amazing,” Apazidis said.
She said she heard from so many people who just stopped going out to eat altogether because it got so difficult. Now, they were able to dine in a restaurant with their loved one again.
“Eating out is something (most of us) take for granted,” Apazidis said.
Apazidis started the Purple Table program this year after learning the impact it had on people’s lives and has created a training based on what she’s learned.
The Purple Table program — purple being the color used in recognition of Alzheimer’s disease — is complete with training instructions for employees, support, an app, and a reservation service similar to Open Table.
She said the site has been viewed by millions worldwide.
Restaurants, Apazidis said, will reap the benefits in a number of ways.
She said in her first three months of launching Purple Table, 50 of her 60 reservations were newcomers to her restaurant. Another plus simply comes from helping others in the community, and spreading awareness about dementia and other impairments. She said her servers get “really psyched up to take care of them. They want to do their best.”
And, no other diner knows about the special accommodations. The service is discreet.
“The program was created to be easy to adapt in your restaurant,” Apazidis said.
Munson said she’d like to start a committee to reach out to local restaurants who’d like to be part of the Purple Table program.
Those interested in being on the committee, and restaurants interested in becoming a part of the movement can contact Munson at 508-675-2101 or visit Purple Table at https://www.purpletables.com/
Email Deborah Allard at firstname.lastname@example.org