A guest post by Ruby Clarkson | Writer, editor, animal lover and coffee enthusiast
Dementia is a challenging group of diseases that causes many different problems, but that doesn’t mean that those who are living with dementia can’t enjoy a lovely day out. In fact, it is good for them to get out and see different things – any kind of stimulation for the brain can help them to feel more like their old selves, even if the feeling is not a permanent one.
And for those caring for friends or relatives who have dementia, it can be difficult to decide where to go and what to do. A day out is good, but where is safe and secure? Where will make the person happy? Where will cause more upset? It can often cause stress and anxiety for the carer, and in the end the idea of a day out can be mooted, which is a shame.
I reached out to Dorothy, an individual that has her dementia care provided by Helping Hands in order to obtain an insight into how a day out can be friendly. Dorothy stated that “There really is no place like home, and with Magda’s support I am able to keep in touch with all of my friends and neighbours. We visit church every week for the Sunday morning service, I can visit the shops and I also take part in a local knitting group. This really is one of the greatest joys of staying in my own home around people I know.”
With Dorothy’s case in mind, here are some places to go and things to see that are particularly dementia friendly. You’ll see the difference immediately, and hopefully make your loved one happy for a while.
A Trip To The Past
What many people find with those with dementia is that although their short term memory is not good – perhaps it doesn’t even exist – their long term memory is almost entirely intact. Therefore, a day trip that offers a glimpse into their past will be ideal, and help them to feel at ease.
Think about places they used to go to as children, for example. It might be that a day at the seaside is perfect, complete with deckchairs, ice creams, and even donkey rides. Let them enjoy the sun and build sandcastles and feel the wind in their hair. Or perhaps a museum with plenty of exhibits that link back to when they were younger. They will happily be able to talk about what they see and enjoy the day immensely.
It can be tempting to try to do as much as possible when you go for a day out, to make the most of the time you have together. Yet this isn’t always a good idea, especially for someone with dementia who can be easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation.
It might be better to enjoy a nice, relaxing day together instead. It could start with a trip to the hairdressers or barbers, and then you could have a spot of afternoon tea together (this links in with the memory trips as mentioned above). Afterwards, you could go to a library or go to a spa for a swim and some treatments.
Outdoor pursuits are always a good idea. People with dementia can often feel cooped up and anxious when they are indoors, and as well as that, fresh air is good for you. So it makes sense to get outside and enjoy what nature has to offer. Not only is it a healthy option, but it is relaxing too.
The local park is always a good place to take someone for a day out, no matter what their age or what their condition might be. Arrange a picnic with their favourite foods and feed the ducks if there are any there. Take a stroll, notice the clouds and the trees, enjoy every moment. It is these simple pleasures that really make a difference.
Although a lot of the memory of a person living with dementia will be affected, there is something about song lyrics that seems to linger, and it is for this reason that a good old sing-along might be exactly what the patient needs to enjoy their day and feel better. You can do this in your own home if you like, simply downloading songs from the past to listen to and song along with. Alternatively, you can find a concert venue that is offering this kind of music too.
If you take a look at the film listings for your local cinema you might be able to spot some special screenings that are labelled as ‘dementia friendly’. If there aren’t any, you might need to search for a larger venue, but these films do exist. The lighting is brighter, there are no trailers or ads before the film starts, and the environment is relaxed and friendly.