Most of us look forward to summer, as it brings with it warmer weather and the opportunity for picnics, vacations, family get-togethers, and maybe a few lazy summer afternoons spent with a good book.
However, when a family member is challenged with a dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, decisions about how to spend summer vacations and outings can become more complicated. Because of this, rather than planning around them, some families find it easier to exclude them altogether.
While, in some cases, having your loved one remain comfortable in their own home may make sense, with a little planning and effort, they, too, can enjoy being part of the festivities, connecting with their loved ones in a relaxed setting.
Here are some tips to make it easier to include your loved one in more summer fun:
- Decide which activities make sense. A trip to a local zoo or park may be fine. But a theme park or hot, crowded beach may not. You know your loved one best. Trust your instincts and be prepared to say “no” to outings that are more likely to agitate than to relax them.
- Plan get-togethers around their timetable. Many individuals with Alzheimer’s are at their best in the morning or early afternoon. Taking that into account can make a big difference and circumvent issues like “sundowning”.
- Prepare family members in advance. This is especially important for those who may not have seen your loved one in a while. Explain their situation, and any communication limitations they may have.
- Keep them safe and comfortable. Heat stroke is very real, and it can be deadly for older individuals. Make sure you keep them hydrated and out of the sun for prolonged periods of time. Bring a cap or hat. Start them off in a short-sleeved shirt but bring a sweater and/or jacket along.
- Be equipped with things they may need. Plenty of water, their medications, and small snacks that they like and are easy to eat.
- Let others help. You may be surprised at how naturally intuitive and capable some of your family members are at communicating and keeping your loved one engaged and comfortable. Encourage their involvement.
- Have an exit strategy. There will be occasions when your loved one becomes over-stimulated or simply tired and needs to rest. Make sure it is easy to leave without interrupting the plans of others. Sometimes, simply taking a short break away from the main area can be sufficient. Other times it will be best to say your goodbyes and leave. Pay attention to the warning signs.
Taking the time in advance to plan can lead to an outing or get-together that is both memorable and enjoyable for everyone.
And, finally, don’t neglect your own health and needs! Summer is great for family fun, but also a good time to schedule a week of respite care for your loved one so that you can catch up with doctor appointments and visit with your own friends.