There is no denying that a diagnosis of dementia can bring with it varying degrees of challenge. Simple things such as a trip to the local shops requires forethought and organisation.
Spontaneity may no longer be an option but with a little research and careful planning, there are no limits to what can be achieved. Unfortunately, there is no 'one-shoe fits all' approach for planning a day out for somebody with dementia. However, the guide below may provide food-for-thought to help you plan a successful day out.
5 Dementia 'Friendly' Days Out
- Dementia Adventure- Dementia Adventure is a charity who works to enable people living with dementia to get outdoors and connect with nature, their community, and themselves. They provide small group, supported holidays for people who have dementia along with their family and friends. If you are considering taking your loved one away for a longer trip, we would definitely recommend this Charity.
- Historic buildings- English Heritage is a charity which cares for over 400 historical buildings, monuments, and sites. If you would like some inspiration on where to take your loved one, their website is a great place to start! Conveniently, the website informs you of the access, parking, facilities, and important information for each of their buildings and sites. What's more, they offer Carer's discount meaning that you as a Carer can enter for free at locations which require an entry fee.
- Places that have meaning to your loved one- Your loved one may enjoy a trip down memory lane to a place or a location that means something to them. For example, this could be a trip to the Village they grew up in or to their favourite beach. A day trip of the likes, along with stories and family history could help to provide reassurance to your relative of their past.
- Museums and galleries- People with dementia tend to prefer and cope better in quiet environments in opposed to boisterous ones. This is why taking them to places that are known for being calm such as a museum or a gallery could be an ideal day out for them. There are even some dementia friendly museums such as the Liverpool Museums House of Memories.
- Memory or dementia cafe- If there is a local memory or dementia cafe near you, this would be a lovely day out for you and your loved one. Memory cafe's allow you to meet with other people who have dementia and their carer's which gives you the opportunity to share your experiences with each other. This is a great way for your family member to remain social and meet new friends.
- Avoid rush hour, weekends and school holidays
- Pre-book tickets to avoid queues
- Remember to take along regular perscription medication
- Check accessibility and facilities before you go
- Make sure everyone is dressed appropriately
- Take along a camera so that you can capture the moment for memories!
Ensuring that your day out is a success
The most important thing to do before taking somebody who has dementia on a day out is to plan. People who have dementia are more likely to become overwhelmed, distressed and confused. Through planning you will be able to identify potential triggers/barriers which need to be overcome, allowing you to have as stress-free a day out as possible. Spontaneous trips may cause your loved one to find it difficult to cope with their routine being interrupted, you will know them best and if this is a risk.
What do I need to consider when choosing a location?
Involve your loved one: Living with dementia can cause someone to lose their sense of independence and confidence in their own decisions. It is therefore crucial that you involve your relative in the planning of your day out which will make them feel like their opinion is valued and create a feeling of well-being. Make sure that you ask them what they would like to do and take their ideas on board.
- Mental/physical health: There may be both mental and physical challenges that face your family member which requires special thought and planning around. People with dementia may often feel insecure due to their disorientation and therefore require a lot of encouragement and reassurance. Their physical health could affect their confidence when leaving their own home as well as their ability to partake in physical activities such as lots of walking. However, getting up and out of the house will provide a person with dementia an improved quality of life as their sleeping & appetite will improve, they will be getting exercise, and anxiety & stress levels will be reduced.
- Accessibility & facilities: Before settling on a location, it is imperative that you check what facilities are available and the accessibility of the location. If your loved one is physically disabled or struggles with walking long distances, it would be unwise to take them to a location that would involve a lot of walking as this would detract from their enjoyment of the day. Furthermore, you will need to assess whether there are sufficient disabled facilities such as WC's offered at the location.
How to plan the journey
- How your relative copes with travelling: It is important to take into consideration how someone with dementia copes with travelling when planning the journey. For instance, some people may struggle with longer journeys due to finding them uncomfortable or boring, in which case it would be best to choose a location closer to their residence. On the other hand, others may enjoy looking out of the window or find it exciting to travel by means that they don't often get to such as by train.
- Places to stop on the way: It is also a good idea to have a look into whether there are any places along the journey to stop for a break such as service stations or cafes. This ensures that there will be somewhere suitable to stop for a break in the instance that your family member becomes unsettled or requires use of the toilet.
When to go
- Avoid peak times: It is strongly advised that you avoid days and times that are likely to be busy. These include rush hour, weekends and school holidays.
Be prepared for the weather
- Do not cancel plans due to poor weather: It may be tempting to rearrange your day trip if the weather is not looking nice. However, cancelling or moving plans may confuse your relative and where possible should be avoided. People with dementia tend to find that routine helps them with everyday living so they may find it difficult to cope with plans being cancelled/delayed if they have been expecting them. If the weather is likely to negatively impact their physical health or safety, then, of course, it would be sensible to rearrange.
- Make sure everyone has dressed appropriately: To make sure that everyone has the best day possible, it is pivotal that you make sure that everyone is dressed appropriately for the weather, and the location. Nobody enjoys being stuck out in the rain without a raincoat! If your family member resides in a care home, it may be a good idea to make carers aware of your plans so that they can help them dress accordingly.
Manage your expectations
Your loved one will need additional support: Before taking your loved one out, you will need to be prepared to provide them with the additional support and supervision that they need. People with dementia can easily become disorientated especially in unfamiliar surroundings and forget where they are and who they are with. This could lead them to wander off and become lost so it is essential that you supervise them closely to prevent unwanted distress to either of you.
Keep things flexible: Keeping things flexible is another factor to consider. Mood swings, tiredness, and health challenges can all have the ability to get in the way of your plans so it is paramount that you do not set your expectations too high.