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Taking Your Loved One on an Outing with Dementia

Son and elderly mother at an outing
By Kathryn Parks

With the end of the year coming up, it is very likely that as a family caregiver, you may get an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful weather, and of course, it is only natural to want to bring your loved one with you! Perhaps you have an amazing treat for them, such as a favorite movie, an exciting expedition related to their favorite hobby, or an outing to an interesting art exhibit, regardless of the where or why, often taking your loved one on an outing when they're living with dementia can be a somewhat daunting task. It doesn't have to be, though, especially with these tips and tricks. Read on to learn more.

Is Taking Your Loved One on an Outing with Dementia a Good Idea?

Absolutely! According to the Dementia Resource Center with St. Johns, outings are the perfect way to engage those living with dementia. Additionally, if your loved one spends a lot of time inside, an outing is one of the best ways to relieve boredom and frustration. Dementia doesn't mean your loved one doesn't want to be actively involved. Plenty of outings are suitable, even if it is a simple walk in the park or a picnic in a scenic area.

Planning the Outing

When it comes to planning the actual outing, there will be many things you will want to consider. Here are a few to add to your list:

  • A familiar venue – dementia patients do better when in familiar surroundings; it prevents disorientation. When planning your outing, try to choose a place that your loved one is familiar with.
  • Timing is everything – You know that your loved one does better during different times of the day and times of the week, try to plan your outing for a time when you know that their spirits will be high and they're feeling most like themselves.
  • Prior planning – this particular advice will be a theme throughout the article. Still, in this specific instance, you will want to ensure that any tickets/parking/permissions are obtained in advance to prevent having to stand in long lines or delays in the event. What type of transportation will you use to get to the event? If public transportation is involved, you may want to purchase tickets ahead of time and make the proper arrangements if a wheelchair is involved. In case of emergency, you will also want to make sure that any legal documents or relevant medications are brought with you. Don't forget an umbrella or sunscreen, depending on the weather!
  • Administrative support – many establishments train their employees on how to interact with those with dementia. If you are going to a museum, for example, you may want to speak with a manager or a more senior member of the staff and let them know of your plans so that they can arrange to provide a tour guide that is knowledgeable about how to interact with your loved one.
  • List items you'll want to bring – when planning the outing, make a list of items you want to have on hand. If your loved one struggles with incontinence, include the proper undergarments, extra change of clothes, blankets, etc. You may also want to plan to bring snacks, books, or word puzzles.
  • Plan for support – whether your loved one is still at home or in a care facility, you may want to consider bringing a companion to share the load while you are out and about. This allows another set of hands to help with anything that may come up that is unexpected and allows the trip to continue to run smoothly. Many caregivers that have shared their experiences report having that extra support as vital to the trip's success.
  • Make companion cards – if you are going to be in a place where others may be close to your loved one, you may want to print companion cards and discretely provide them to those your loved one interacts with. It can be as simple as a 3x5 card that says, "Please be patient. The person I am with has dementia."
  • Prepare Your Loved One – Quite often, the key to caring for someone with dementia is a schedule and routine. If their routine is going to be disrupted by the trip, you may want to make sure that you take the time to prepare them for the outing. Let them know a few weeks in advance, circle it on a calendar, and remind them of the plan. This will help them feel calmer and more in control of what is happening.

Taking Your Loved One on The Outing

Regarding the big day, remind your loved ones of the event while you prepare them. Ensure that they are physically prepared with comfortable clothing and shoes and have everything they need. For example, you don't want to take your loved one out to enjoy a great dinner and then find out that they don't want to be there because they don't have their reading glasses. They can't read the menu or have an outburst because they forgot to bring their favorite binoculars for birdwatching while you're in the park for a stroll. You may have packed a go-bag with everything from your list, but you'll want to double-check that they won't want their bag for the outing with what they believe they need.

What's next? Enjoy the day with your loved one. You may find that the outing does them good, allowing them to use their energy in a positive way, creating amazing new memories, and lessening your loved one's sense of isolation.

Don't forget that Homewatch CareGivers of Ellicott City is here for you. Providing our clients with compassionate and professional assistance is always a privilege. Don't hesitate to contact us today if you have more questions or keep browsing our website for more information.

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