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Day Trips for People With Dementia

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 6 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Dementia Day Trip Museum Care Home

Watching somebody you love struggling with dementia can be very hard, but just because they're having difficulties doesn't have to mean that the good things in life are over. Going on day trips together can be a wonderful way to remember happy times. Seeing interesting and beautiful places can still bring a lot of pleasure, and even if the memories of it don't last, the good mood often will.

Planning Trips

Planning a trip is most easily done if you can get the person with dementia to participate directly. Bear in mind that they can contribute ideas even if they later forget doing so. If it's difficult to develop a direct discussion, try looking at pictures of different places together and seeing which elicit the happiest reactions. If your loved one is in a care home, ask staff for advice about when is likely to be the best time to go.

Loss of control over day to day life can be frightening. Many people with dementia are happily unaware of their condition most of the time, but can be reminded of it when you tell them that they agreed to go somewhere. This can make the whole trip stressful. Even if you've been planning the trip for ages, it can be best to ask them again on the day as if doing so for the first time. This may mean they turn you down, but it can also mean that they feel they've been given a surprise treat.

Most people with dementia hang onto older memories better than recent ones. This means that older things seem less intimidating. Try to travel using transport that looks familiar. If you're driving, you may want to turn off the latest gadgets in your car.

Places to Visit

Because dementia can result in difficulties processing information, and because the process of straining to remember can be tiring, the best places to go on day trips are simple and quiet. Try to find places where there are not too many people and not too many new things to have to deal with. Learning venues such as museums are okay because it's usually possible to approach them at your own pace.

Taking people with dementia to places they used to be familiar with can bring back good memories, but bear in mind that it can also provoke bad ones - try to determine how they feel about the place before you go. Bear in mind that they may have described some times in their lives as happy for your sake, even if that was not the case. Once dementia sets in, real feelings become much harder to hide or to deal with. Make sure you feel ready to cope with whatever happens.

When you choose a place to go, make sure there will be plenty of quiet places to stop and rest. Your companion may need to take breaks to reorientate themselves. Peaceful views can often help them to feel calm and secure.

Dealing with Difficulties

Going on day trips with people who have dementia is usually fine as long as they are co-operative. Co-operation can be achieved by anticipating what they want and being careful to keep them in a good mood. Where problems do occur, it's usually towards the end of the trip, when tiredness sets in. For this reason, the first rule of a successful day trip is to keep it short.

Sometimes people with dementia can become aggressive. This is usually a result of feeling frightened or insecure because the world is so confusing. If your loved one is usually looked after by somebody else, ask in advance if they think this might be a problem. If it does happen, it's time to go home. Take your time and try to calm them down, but be ready to be firm when necessary, even if it upsets you both. Don't feel too bad - an otherwise happy trip is still a good thing.

Dementia can also result in inappropriate behaviour on a trip that can make you feel awkward and embarrassed. Try to be patient. Other people will generally understand if you explain the problem. Remember that what matters is not the set of behaviours caused by the illness, but the person underneath. That person will be grateful to you for understanding, and for a wonderful day out.

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