If you are caring for someone with dementia, activity planning can be somewhat fraught. There are multiple factors to consider – there are triggers to avoid and scenarios to plan for. You may find yourself continually asking: will this outing be too overwhelming for my loved one?
Luckily, there are ways to ensure a successful outing that is both fun for you and dementia-conscious for your loved one. Here is a very simple guideline for caregivers or home health aides to plan an activity for someone with dementia.
Be mindful about location.
When planning an outing for a dementia patient, location is everything. It dictates whether or not the outing is received well by the aging loved one. Thus, your goal is to find a place that is least likely to irritate or confuse them.
You’ll want to find a space that is quiet, sparsely populated, and away from any large gatherings. For example, a day at the community park would be much more conductive than a day at the theme park.
Keep them in the loop.
The best way to ensure the success of your outing is to keep your loved one informed. For those living with dementia, there is nothing more troubling than a sudden change in schedule. If you surprise your loved one with spontaneity, they may dig their heels in before the activity has even begun.
Tell the person in advance about the outing. Let them know what you will do, when you will go, and how long you expect to stay. Be prepared for them to ask follow up questions and answer accordingly. This gives them the chance to get used to the idea and feel better in control of the situation.
Prepare a “centering bag.”
When going out, there is a high likelihood that your loved one may see something that confuses them. The world is chaotic and there is only so much that you can control! Yet, you can control how your loved one manages their confusion. By packing a bag of centering activities, you can help your loved one cope with the agitating environment.
This bag will differ based on the dementia patient’s needs. It can include a memory book, a favorite toy, a picture, or anything that brings some kind of comfort. The goal is to take an activity that grounds your loved one and keeps them centered when they feel off-kilter.