It’s fair to say that some can find dementia-friendly days out a daunting prospect – they take time and energy to plan, and it can be hard to know where to start. But with this handy guide, you can get rid of the stress and instead focus on enjoying your trip with your loved one.
Where should you go?
Choosing the right venue for your dementia-friendly activities is paramount to ensure that both you and your loved one enjoy your day out from their specialist dementia care home, but with so many options, narrowing it down can be difficult. A good place to begin your search can be finding something that relates to your loved one’s past jobs or hobbies – many have found that this link makes their trips especially rewarding and enjoyable. Others also find that going outdoors can help those suffering from dementia both emotionally and physically; even just a walk around a park or a woodland can have great benefits, and if you wrap up warm then there’s no reason you can’t head outside in the colder months, too.
If you’re still a little stuck on where to go, apps like Care and Connect: Dementia Friendly Places, developed by a team at Newcastle University, can give you some good ideas. You can also read reviews left by others to see if any of the locations meet your needs. Failing that, do some research to see if there are any dementia-friendly places in your area – historic homes, beaches and nature reserves are all great options. Somewhere quiet and away from large crowds is best so that you don’t overstimulate your loved one.
Make sure to take your loved one’s needs into account when choosing your location. Do they need frequent breaks? Perhaps access to a wheelchair should you need it? But, above all else, include your loved one in the planning process. At a time when they may feel their control slipping away from them, involving them in organising the day out can reduce the anxiety that sometimes comes with leaving home and breaking with their everyday routine
Once you’ve chosen the venue for your dementia-friendly day trip, an oft-forgotten step is to visit it yourself before your planned day out. This is the best way to get a feel for the site if you’ve never been there before, and it’s a good time to make enquiries with staff about services they provide for dementia patients so that everyone knows exactly what to expect on the day. You can also ask about any carer discounts on entry fees or refreshments.
While there, take a look at the facilities and any potential accessibility issues, too. Where’s the disabled parking? If you have a wheelchair, will you be able to get around the site? Are there quiet places to eat and rest? Everything needs to be taken into consideration to ensure that your loved one has a fantastic day out. If you find that you can’t get to the venue before your planned trip, try to do your research online; the location’s website should give you at least some of the information you need, while disabledgo.com and wheelmap.org will let you know about accessibility.
Your research shouldn’t focus on just the site, though – have a look to see if there are any events going around the same time, both at the venue and nearby. The last thing you want is to be stuck in traffic or in a noisy cafe on what is supposed to be a relaxed day trip.
When it comes to planning the journey itself, take your loved one into account. Do they like car journeys, or would they rather watch the world go by on a train? Would a bus be a better option? Make sure to take their opinion and comfort into account where possible, and ensure that there are plenty of rest stops if they’re needed.
What should you bring?
So you’ve planned your day out and it’s finally here. What do you need to bring with you? If you’re driving, a sat-nav or a map is great; the verbal instructions from the former can help your loved one know where they are and where they’re going. Money, as always, is a must – try to have both cash and a credit or debit card so that you don’t get caught out if a cafe is cash-only. If you’ve pre-booked tickets, don’t forget to take them along too. Of course, they may be stored on your phone, but having a print-out can never hurt just in case you run out of battery or can’t access your emails.
Food and water are both important, especially if you’re going for a woodland walk with little access to either, and suitable footwear is essential. Your blue badge is essential if you need a disabled parking space, and identity cards and photos are always good to have in case of emergencies alongside any medication. It’s also great to bring along a camera so that you can capture the memories made on your day trip.
You should remember, however, that you don’t just need to think about your loved one’s needs. If you need to bring any medication or special equipment, make sure to bring it with you, too.
Have a great time
The number one thing to remember on your dementia-friendly day out is that you and your loved one both need to enjoy yourselves. Try to relax and enjoy the quality time you’re spending with your loved one. Go at their pace, be flexible and make sure to take pictures; not only will it be great for both of you to look back on, but you’ll also be able to use them as inspiration for your next dementia-friendly trip.
Flexibility is key – don’t be upset if the day doesn’t go exactly as planned. Always make sure you have some contingency time in case things go wrong, and it’s good to have a Plan B in case the weather suddenly changes or something comes up.
Breaking down a big task into smaller pieces will always help it to be more manageable, so it’s a good way to approach planning your dementia-friendly days out. Just take it one step at a time and you’ll find that it’s no longer overwhelming. The most important thing is that you and your loved one have a great time, so make sure to plan the day around them, and then go and enjoy yourselves.