5 expert tips for a happy, dementia-friendly day out

dementia-friendly days out

Everyone needs a change of scenery from time-to-time, and it’s no different for those living with dementia. There are many dementia-friendly activities to get involved in with your loved one, some of which you may have never tried before. 

A different environment can do wonders, both for carers and those with dementia. For example, time spent outdoors has been shown to have several benefits for your physical health and wellbeing, including lowering anxiety and stress.

A change of scenery and different sensory experiences can often stimulate conversation and provide topics for reminiscence, too.

Many heritage sites and arts or cultural venues are becoming more dementia-friendly, which can put you at ease when planning your day out. Popular activities – such as music sessions or painting – can be a good choice for your loved one, too. From dementia-friendly swimming and walking sessions to heading outdoors to a sensory garden, there’s lots to try.

With a little advanced planning and preparation, there’s no reason why you can’t plan a fun-filled day out for both of you to enjoy.   

Plan ahead

Planning everything carefully and well in advance. This should reduce any stress, both for you and your loved one. You’ll both be able to relax and get the most out of your day out.

Take the time before your trip to research places you and your loved one would like to go, and where would be best suited for you both.  All of us can become restless or uncomfortable on long journeys, so be aware of ‘cue and clues’ from your loved one. Shorter trips closer to home may be more enjoyable, in the first instance.

Choose the right environment

Lots of venues will be dementia-friendly, however it can be useful to speak to staff in advance to make sure it’s the right environment for your loved one, and put your mind at ease ahead of your outing. For example, it’s worth speaking directly to any staff at any cafes or restaurants you’d like to go to, as they may be able to seat you in a quieter area.

You could use this conversation to check whether there is disabled parking and accessible toilets if these are required. They can also advise on whether any other measures are in place, such a clear signage or having wheelchairs or mobility scooters on hand. Knowing what to expect can ease any stress and worry and help you to enjoy the day.

Manage your expectations

Often the best part of your loved one’s day will be spending time with you. Remember that these days out may be a slower pace of life than what you’re used to, however the most important thing is spending time together in a relaxed and calming environment.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if your loved one doesn’t feel comfortable at first. It can be overwhelming, so take it slow and regularly check-in with them to see how they’re feeling.

Involve your loved one

Talking openly about planning a trip out can boost your loved one’s esteem confidence. Firstly, begin by asking them if there’s anything they’d like to do and take their ideas on board. It will make them feel valued and can boost their mood. 

Ensure that you share as much as possible with the person living with dementia – the importance of a shared experience is key. If communication is difficult make sure you use all formats of communication (verbal, non-verbal and visual to express your message). Give the person time to process the information and be on-hand to answer any questions they may have.

If you’re struggling for inspiration, or simply want to plan a trip that’s familiar to your loved one, why not plan a day out that relates to your loved one’s history? For example, you may enjoy exploring places they used to work, or any hobbies they enjoyed. These types of activities can improve their mood, confidence, and social skills.

Recently, a resident from Bupa’s Chilton Meadows in Suffolk had a wonderful day out with his wife walking in the countryside. Staff reported seeing a greater level of wellbeing for days later. The resident continually mentioning the trip and what it meant, and as keen walkers, the couple enjoyed reminiscing about walking holidays they had taken.  

Dementia-friendly flexibility

Don’t set your expectations too high; sometimes a change of scenery can be overwhelming. Be mindful of health challenges, mood swings and tiredness, as these can all impact your day. Building in plenty of flexibility can avoid unnecessary stress if your plans must change quickly.

Don’t forget to keep your loved one involved in the plans for your day. Be patient and communicate clearly with your loved one about your plans and focus on the things they’re able to do, such as eating independently. Set a positive tone for the conversation, let them communicate at their own pace and remain calm. Above all, remember this is about spending time with a loved one living with dementia and being part of their daily journey. Memories of the day aren’t always spoken but often felt inside us, Therefore, don’t underestimate the impact of the day out and enjoy yourself.

Trevor Wilson, a Dementia Lead for Bupa Care Services

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Last modified: August 10, 2023

Written by 4:19 pm Dementia care & awareness