Activities are a critical part of maintaining a good quality of life for people with dementia. It is important to recognize the person’s interests as well as their abilities and find appropriate activities for them to participate in.
A simple task we all take for granted most of our lives, such as simply walking out the front door to a coffee shop, the store or for a walk around the block, is a really big deal for a person with dementia. However, until the most severe stages of the disease approach, with the right planning and assistance, activities for people with dementia can continue to include “outings.”
Outings are a key part of Providence’s activity calendar and over the years we have developed best practices, such as:
1. Be Prepared.
You know those huge bags moms carry around for toddlers, its best to prepare and carry one for seniors with dementia as well. Take a change of clothes, some water and their favorite snack with you. Make sure you take a mobile phone with you in case you need to call somebody in an emergency.
2. Simplicity is Better.
It would be very nice to take grandma to the Ritz Carlton for high tea, but is that really the appropriate venue? You want to take your loved ones to places both where they will feel comfortable and accepted. A Providence favorite is the local ice cream shop or even a Starbucks – midweek and early afternoon before school is out. If going out for a meal, stick with something simple where you can finish quickly if necessary. Sometimes a walk around the house is all it takes to get re-energized and change the scenery.
3. Avoid Crowded Places.
You dont want to overstimulate people with dementia. It is best to avoid large crowded places that may elicit a negative response. We often go with our clients to the park, but at times when there will not be many people around.
4. Stay Calm and Redirect as Needed.
Remember, your loved one is often reacting to your energy and that of others around them. It is important to always stay calm. Learning to reorient someone with dementia is critical and if something bothers them when you are out, just redirect their attention and find a new focus.
5. Watch for Cues.
It is important to read body language and watch for cues your loved one may be tired and ready to go home or sit down and take a break. Typically, it is better to keep activities to 30 minutes or an hour at most or so as it is hard to keep a person with dementia engaged in one thing for much longer.
6. Hiring Assistance for an Outing.
There are times when hiring a caregiver to assist during an outing will make it much more enjoyable for everybody. For example, if you would like to bring mom to a bridal shower or another event with many people around and where you will likely not be able to focus 100% of your attention on her. Even at other large family gatherings around the holidays, it can be a lot less stressful for everybody to have somebody dedicated to caring for the person with dementia 100% of the time.