The new Alzheimer’s-Friendly Businesses program from the Home Instead Senior Care home care company is helping caregivers and the places that employ them.

Today, 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and by 2025, 7.1 million people 65 or older will, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Home Instead franchises (there are 640 in the U.S. and Canada, including one on East Reynolds Road in Lexington) just began offering employers free workshops training them how to assist employees who either have Alzheimer’s or care for others with the disease as well as their customers and clients with Alzheimer’s.

Richard Eisenberg, an editor with attended a workshop in New Jersey and was impressed.

“We’ve had special Alzheimer’s training for caregivers and, a few years ago, added training for family members of people with dementia — whether they use our service or not,” said Home Instead CEO Jeff Huber. “Alzheimer’s is becoming a huge workplace issue, so we felt we had a responsibility to help businesses and employees. It was a natural place to take our training.”

Once at least 10 percent of employees of an organization attend a workshop, Home Instead will give their employer its Alzheimer’s-Friendly Business designation and logo.

At the workshop Eisenberg attended in the Home Instead of Morris/Passaic Counties, N.J. office, Director of Community Relations Steve Tyburski and Executive Director Steve Sussman advised the leaders of Spectrum Construction & Development, a custom home builder and remodeling specialist in Succasunna, N.J. increasingly doing multi-generational reno projects.

“Some of our customers have had Alzheimer’s or are dealing with loved ones with it, and we thought it would be beneficial to learn more about this,” said Spectrum President Donald Dyrness. Added Spectrum Vice President Daniel Dyrness (Donald’s father): “We give customers guidance with the financial and legal aspects of bringing people into their home.”

The subject was also personal. Several relatives of the Dyrnesses and Office Manager Dorie Whittenburg, who also attended the workshop, have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“We watched the progression within our own family. It’s sad,” said Daniel Dyrness.

The workshop began with Home Instead’s advice to Spectrum about speaking with customers or their family members with Alzheimer’s. “Treat people

[with Alzheimer’s] with dignity and respect,” said Tyburski. “Avoid arguing, since that can escalate to something very large and you can also avoid embarrassing the person.”

Also, he recommended, “Approach the person slowly and from the front. Sometimes, if you approach from the back or slap someone’s back, they may get startled and take a swing at you.” Sussman added: “They start to lose peripheral vision and won’t see you coming.”

Tyburski continued: “Speak at eye level, speak slowly and calmly with short, simple words. Use a comforting tone of voice. And allow the individual enough time to respond; sometimes they have to collect their thoughts.”

Tyburski suggested that if a customer, or customer’s family member, with Alzheimer’s makes an inappropriate comment or becomes disruptive, “try to redirect” him or her. “Sometimes this will work, sometimes it won’t,” he added.

If the person becomes argumentative, Tyburski said, “apologize and take the blame yourself, saying: ‘Sorry I misunderstood. My bad.’ And then try to move on.”

The discussion then turned to the actual work Spectrum does as it relates to Alzheimer’s.

Whittenurg asked: “For our business, what are some of the top things to know if someone is bringing a loved one into the home?”

“Paint color. People with dementia can lose depth perception,” said Sussman. “So it’s good to paint some hallways one color and others another. In the bathroom, paint the back wall a different color and make the floors and walls a different color.”

Daniel Dyrness offered a personal tip: “When my father-in-law was wandering in our house, we put in motion detector lights in the hallways. That way, the light went on and he went right back to bed.”

As the workshop ended, Sussman said: “One reason we are doing these workshops is we don’t want to turn away from Alzheimer’s. You need to interact with people that have it, so they don’t feel isolated.”

To sign up for a Home Instead Age-Friendly Business workshop, either contact your local Home Instead franchise or sign up for training online at