Taking your loved one out for the day should be one of those memory-making events that bring joy to all involved, but when dementia is coming along too, it can sometimes feel like a daunting task. Have no fear – we have compiled a checklist for you to help make this precious time together go a bit more smoothly.
Do a recce
Choose a place that is likely to be engaging, but not too demanding. Before you set out, make sure to do as much research as possible – online if that’s the only way, but do visit if you can. You may be able to find a helpful staff member who will meet and greet you to put everyone at their ease, for example. Some places are dementia friendly and will announce it on their website; this means you can expect a warm welcome and a quiet place to sit without fuss. This dementia-friendly map of Edinburgh is a great example of a usefull planning aid, https://brightcare.co.uk/resource/dementia-friendly-edinburgh-map/
Make it outdoors
The link between good mental health and being outdoors is well documented. It’s no different for those with dementia. Fresh air, a view and a little sunshine can do wonders for the mood so try to include an outdoor element where you can. Be mindful of any tendencies to agoraphobia or panic in crowds and try to keep it low key. And it doesn’t just have to be a sunny day to get outdoors – as the walker and writer Alfred wainwright said, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.’
Lower your expectations
It’s not going to be like it might once have been, so try not to be disappointed if they can’t make it round the museum like they used to, or show little interest in a previously beloved activity. Dementia makes people tire out more quickly, so best to plan something in the morning when they are fresher, and nothing too ambitious.
Familiarity is best
Planning a day out to somewhere that your loved one has enjoyed in the past can open all sorts of neural pathways – memories, remembered emotions and more. It can also help to allay any sense of unease that their routine has been broken. If you’re going somewhere new maybe bring along a familiar mug or blanket to bring a sense of home with you.
The little details
What if you need the loo? Can they be left alone, or will you need to ask someone to keep an eye on them?
Don’t forget: prebooked tickets for your venue if possible (avoids long queues)
Money – cash and credit card
Map or sat-nav for route
Radar key for access to disabled toilets
Ample food and water
Identity cards/photos, for pockets
Any prescription medication needed
Mobile phone (fully charged) with emergency contact numbers stored
Suitable footwear and a change of clothes
Umbrellas, raincoats, hat, gloves and scarves or, if you are lucky, sun hats and sun tan lotion!
Camera/camera phone or camcorder
Finally – take lots of pictures and print them out for your loved one. They will be a useful conversation starter nad a great memory jogger in case you plan to take them out again.