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Indiana Restaurant Warms Hearts With Sunday Special for Those Living With Dementia

A specific menu and a designated seating area are all part of the plan.
mature mother and her adult daughter are drinking coffee

Amazing Joe's restaurant in Columbus, Indiana, wants everyone to feel welcome—especially those who suffer from dementia, which is why the restaurant announced it will be adding a dementia-friendly special to its menu.

Dementia hits close to home for Nick Grams, the managing partner of the restaurant, who lost his mother to the neurocognitive disorder earlier in the year. Grams would pick his mother up from her assisted living home for a bite to eat, but the experience wasn't always a positive one. Often, between the sound of chatter at nearby tables, plates crashing, and music blaring from the overhead speakers, he would find the environment was too stimulating for his mom. Couple all of this with a forgotten order and fast-moving waiters, and it was a recipe for disaster.

It was these obstacles that Grams faced with his mother that inspired him to partner with Thrive Alliance, Indiana's Agency on Aging, and co-conceptualized the Forget-Me-Not menu at Amazing Joe's.

forget-me-not menu at amazing joe's restaurant
Courtesy of WISH-TV/YouTube

The dementia-friendly menu and seating will be on the second Sunday of every month, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. So, what makes it dementia-friendly? For starters, there are only a few options to choose from, and each is accompanied by a large picture. And it's not just about the food offerings: The restaurant will seat people in the back, where it's quieter and closer to the smells of the kitchen, all of which can help create a more soothing dining experience.

The Mayo Clinic describes dementia as a group of symptoms that affect cognitive function, namely the ability to think and remember. Sensory stimulation, like smelling delicious food being prepared in the kitchen, may enable someone with dementia to call up a positive memory or emotion. Conversely, too much stimuli, such as loud noise and commotion, could cause undue stress.

The whole point of this initiative is to allow those struggling with dementia, as well as their companions, to feel comfortable enough to enjoy good conversation and live in the moment—and in each other's company.

"Sometimes that person doesn't want to go out and engage or be social or do the things they used to do," Sue Lamborn, outreach manager for Thrive Alliance, told WISH-TV. "We all want people to feel like they belong, and that's not going to happen unless we start doing more initiatives like this."

Amazing Joe's will be offering dementia-friendly dining hours at its other location in Muncie, Indiana, soon, too.

"I know [my mother will] be looking down on us, definitely appreciative of what we're doing, knowing we're doing the right thing," Grams said.

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Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more
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