As the weather begins to warm up, most of us find ourselves longing to get out of the house. If you live in a colder climate, you may have been cooped up over the long winter and wet spring and look forward to shopping, visits to the park, cook-outs and warm evenings, sitting outside with a cool drink watching the sunset.
For individuals with dementia, however, leaving the house can cause a great deal of anxiety. So it seems easier to stay put and cling to the familiar haven of the home.
Getting up and out of the house, however, can be beneficial for individuals struggling with dementia because the change in scenery stimulates the brain and senses in ways that familiar environments cannot. While you don’t want to force your loved one into uncomfortable settings that are noisy and confusing, there are short outings you can take together that break up your day and give you both a refreshing change of pace.
Here are some things to consider when planning a brief outing with your loved one:
- Get your loved one’s input. That doesn’t mean to sit down with a list of ideas and run them all past your mom or dad. A better idea is sit with them and reminisce about activities he or she used to enjoy and places they liked to visit. You might ask what their favorite kind of park is, or if they liked to go get an ice cream cone back when they were young. Did they love to visit the library or local museum? Take a few notes and you’ll begin to get an idea of what they might enjoy.
- Do a dry run. If you plan to take your loved one to the park, for example, plan to visit in advance. Make sure the park has disabled parking spaces, easily accessible bathrooms, clean footpaths and shady rest areas where you can sit and enjoy a snack and cool drink out of the sun. If your loved one wants to go out for an ice cream, make sure the venue has a place to sit and, if possible, isn’t located in a crowded mall or other high traffic area.
- Keep the outings short. If you and your loved one leave your outing wanting to venture out again, that’s a good sign that you kept the day short enough to keep them from getting over tired. Look for signs of fatigue during your outing and be prepared to leave early.
- Make sure the time is right. If your loved one is not having a good day, it’s not a good time to introduce new surroundings. It’s best to let mom or dad remain where they are most comfortable. The outing can wait.
- Be prepared. Make sure you are equipped with medications, snacks, bottled water and other supplies that your loved one may need during your outing.
- Take plenty of photos. This is the best part. Keep a photo record of you outing with notes and images. This is a great way to share the memories of your day later with all family members.
Outings with a mom or dad who has dementia don’t have to be full of anxiety and stress. With a little planning and input from them, you can arrange short, relaxing day trips that will leave you and your loved one refreshed and eager to go out again.