People with dementia go undercover to see whether a department store is dementia friendly.
When department store John Lewis wanted feedback on how dementia friendly its Cambridge shop was, a local group of people with dementia agreed to do some mystery shopping.
Four members of our service user review panel in Cambridge visited the store approaching staff with queries that they thought would be useful to try out.
About service user review panels
Our service user review panels are groups of people with dementia who meet to comment on and influence what we and others are doing.
There are a growing number of panels across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
They get requests from organisations who want to know what people with dementia think about a particular piece of work, and they decide which they would like to take on.
Jean asked to exchange a birthday card because she'd bought one with the wrong age on it, also explaining that she has dementia. Not only did she get it swapped, the staff member also helped her to select a new one.
'She wasn't one of these people who realised there was something wrong and froze,' says Jean.
'I didn't know what to expect, but she went completely out of her way to help me,' says Jean.
'She wasn't one of these people who realised there was something wrong and froze. It can frighten them, they want to get rid of you – and quickly.
'When I told her, it didn't frighten her. She couldn't have been any nicer.'
Ian wanted advice about buying a tin opener. The person he asked turned to a colleague for help, and Ian was very satisfied overall.
'She came back with another lady who sorted it,' he says.
'The staff were willing to give advice and you felt at your ease.'
David visited the toy department and asked for help in buying a small toy car. He felt the staff could have done more to support him.
'They weren't sharp with me but they didn't go any further than pointing me to the right place,' he says.
'I could tell they were busy but they could have taken me to that part of the department.'
The store's signage was assessed by Dick, who wasn't impressed.
'When you came out of the lift, you couldn't see any signs at all. The sign was behind you as you stepped out!'
Spread the word
Many of the staff in John Lewis are Dementia Friends, which Jean believes is vital.
'If staff aren't trained, they don't know how to act,' she says.
'It's nice to get it round that there is a problem, then other stores can think about what they can do,' says David.
The store's management have the panel's feedback from their visits, and David hopes the message will spread to other businesses in the area.
He says, 'It's nice to get it round that there is a problem, then other stores can think about what they can do.'