4 Tips for Outings with a Senior Who Has Dementia

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Alzheimer’s and other dementias can bring with them some unsettling behaviours that make it stressful to go out in public with someone who has this disease. What if your loved one with dementia unexpectedly begins taking his clothes off in a restaurant or falsely accuses a stranger of stealing?

If you dread the thought of taking your loved one out in public, you’re not alone. In a recent survey conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® network, 74 percent of surveyed family caregivers caring for an individual with a dementia illness said they and their loved ones had become more isolated as a result of the disease. Caregivers said the unpredictable behaviour that can accompany dementia made the idea of going out in public stressful.

Fortunately, more businesses are becoming “Alzheimer’s-aware,” and you can promote this trend by supporting these forward-thinking stores who understand the special needs of customers with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Use the following tips to venture confidently into a public setting.

1. Seek Out Alzheimer’s Friendly Businesses

Look for an Alzheimer’s Friendly BusinessSM decal on the window of your local establishments. This seal signifies the business has completed specialized training to better serve customers with dementia illnesses and their caregivers.

The Alzheimer’s Friendly Business program, a new initiative by Home Instead, Inc., increases awareness of Alzheimer’s in the business community and provides free training with tips for ways to serve people with dementia.

If you don’t see the decal at your favorite store or restaurant, tell the manager about this valuable training.

2. Keep a “Go” Bag on Hand

Make outings easier on yourself by keeping a tote bag at the ready. Stock it with items your loved one routinely needs, including a couple of incontinence briefs, wipes, sunscreen, snacks, water, magazines, books or anything you normally find yourself reaching for when you take a short trip. Download the free Alzheimer’s Go-To Checklist for a complete list of items you may want to consider bringing with you.

3. Learn How to Handle Misbehaviour

Start by understanding the underlying need beneath a behaviour. For instance, a person who tries to take her blouse off may be indicating she is too warm. Visit the Dementia Support Network or get the free Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias Daily Companion App for on-the-go tips to deal with challenging behaviours associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Prepare Explanations in Advance

If your loved one is prone to getting loud or agitated in public, plan in advance how you will explain this behaviour to the strangers around you. Let them know they’re witnessing a disease process at work. Some caregivers print small cards to discretely hand out that state the individual has Alzheimer’s and to please forgive the outburst. This can help preserve your loved one’s dignity. Read more about how to react when someone with dementia is inappropriate in public.

Each time you take your loved one with dementia out in public, you provide interactions that can lift her mood and soothe her soul—and yours, too. You also perform a valuable service by showing other people (including businesses) the true face of dementia and by educating them about how to interact with these special people.

Don’t forget to remind your favorite establishments to become certified as an Alzheimer’s Friendly Business by taking the free training program.