Living with Dementia can often place limitations on the life of the person affected and the lives of their loved ones. When caring for someone with dementia, the idea of taking them out and about, with all the unknown variables that could occur, can be so daunting it seems insurmountable. However the importance of keeping active and trying to enjoy outings cannot be overstated.
Here are our Top Tips to help keeping active easier for everyone.
Accessible and Friendly Venues
The most important aspect of a trip out of the house is to find the right venue. This can be the key to a successful day out. As well as making sure a venue is accessible for wheelchairs, suitably engaging and easy to get to, it is worth doing some research before you leave to find any dementia friendly venues in your area. Many popular sites and heritage venues are now ensuring that they have staff who are trained in dementia awareness and a quick search for local venues who describe themselves as ‘dementia friendly’ could make your time together far easier and more enjoyable.
If possible, visit the venue in advance and have a chance to ‘walk through’ the possible hazards and issues that might arise so that the day can go as smoothly as possible. Be mindful of possible busy times or school holidays in case over crowding causes distress. If it’s not possible to get to the place in person, then ringing up and speaking to the venue directly can help discover any options that may not be advertised on their website, for example, they may be able to reserve a suitable table for lunch, allow you to pre-order food to avoid queuing, be able to provide a quiet area if required or advise on any specific dementia-friendly events that are coming up.
Breaks away need not necessarily end with the onset of dementia. If planning a trip on your own is too much, or the idea of separate respite care doesn’t appeal, then don’t despair – there are some great organisations who will take over the burden of planning and organising a suitable trip.
For example https://dementiaadventure.co.uk/ offer tailored and heavily subsidised trips to people with all types of dementia, as well as their family, carers or friends. Their short breaks and holidays to the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, North Yorkshire and Wales include trained team members and expertly planned itineraries – suitable for people of all mobility levels.
Make sure you know the route to and from the chosen venue, parking options and the best timings for the day and that you have sufficient supplies for any conceivable eventuality – radar key for disabled access to toilets, identity cards, change of clothes, umbrellas or suncream and any regular prescription medication. Also consider any personal needs – for example borrowing a light weight wheelchair to make it easier to get in and out of the car and push around for any length of time – but also don’t forget to think about any personal needs you may have as a carer – for example will there be somewhere safe to leave your loved one if you need the toilet?
Trips out may not be the same as they were before the days of dementia, however making memories and enjoying time together is worth cherishing. If the day doesn’t go quite to plan, it isn’t necessarily a failure. Flexibility and contingency plans can ensure that any problems that arise will not derail the whole day. Getting out in to the fresh air and seeing other people is as important as ‘achieving’ anything from the day.
And finally don’t forget to take photos – both for memories and as a reference to look back on past successes to help make future plans for trips out.
If a big day out is too much to manage – there are probably a number of dementia friendly events taking place in the community. Dementia friendly film screenings are growing in number and popularity – both in cinemas and other venues such as theatres and community halls.. Local leisure centres tend to offer swimming or fitness sessions specifically for those with dementia as well as community centres offering coffee mornings, singing groups, art or dance groups to give the trip out some purpose and to meet other people in the community. Most of the groups and specialist sessions can be found with some quick google searches or a phone call.
And if leaving the house at all is just too much, then keeping active around the house is also an option – keeping involved in the day to day running of the house as much as is safe to do so, can help keep the person with dementia feeling independent and active for as long as possible. The instinct for carers might be to get it all done quickly and easily but this can mean that the person being cared for is left out, keeping them involved in the gardening, cooking or tidying are all little ways to keep loved ones active for as long as possible.