I spoke to a great family recently. They do a lot of fun things with their mom, who has dementia, and they take her on a lot of outings. Mom always has fun on their outings, but when they get back to the dementia care community to drop her off…everything falls apart. I gave them a few tips to help make their outings more successful:
1. Plan to be back before 2:00. In fact, the earlier the better. People with dementia are like Cinderella, but with 12-noon instead of 12-midnight. Many people with dementia sundown in the mid-afternoon, some people even starting at 2:00 or 3:00.
2. Have a goal in mind. Plan to go out for lunch, and then come back. Plan to have some ice cream out at the mall, and then come back. Don’t linger, and instead plan the day and stick to that plan.
3. Do NOT go to your house. Or your loved one’s house. Basically, don’t go to anyone’s house. It’s a reminder to your loved one that they no longer live at home, and that can be really painful.
4. Do not get back to the dementia community and say, “We’re home,” or “You live here now.” If your loved one is like most people in moderate stages of dementia, this is going to start a fight. They often do not believe that they live there, and you’re contradicting what they know to be true.
5. Get your loved one settled in for lunch or with an activity, and then leave. Do not drop your loved one off at the door and make a break for it! On the other hand, you also don’t want to hang out all day after an outing. Find a way to get them involved in something at the care community, and then leave.
Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.
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