1. Choosing the right venue
Some restaurants and cafes are very dementia friendly – having a quick chat with a staff member when you arrive will help them to understand that they can help you by giving you a table in a quiet area or prioritising your order and clearing plates away quickly. Some venues will offer discounts for people living with a disability. Others might have wheelchairs you can hire for the day, or even adult changing facilities. They might also be able to enhance your day out with hands-on experiences that aren’t widely advertised.
2. Take a trip down memory lane
If you are struggling for inspiration, or want a change from the tried and tested cafes and parks, then what about a trip that relates to your loved one’s past jobs or hobbies? Do, however, remember your loved one’s condition now, and think about how their job or hobby may have changed. If revisiting a workplace means exposing them to loud noises or lots of modern technology, it’s worth finding an alternative trip to go on.
3. Pick a slower pace of life
Some people living with dementia may find it difficult to process information, so simple and quiet places are good destinations for outings. Learning venues, like local museums, are often good as people can approach them at their own pace. The key is to find stimulating places and activities that don’t involve too many challenges or choices. Avoiding crowds and noise is important too. Dementia can also affect concentration so it’s worth doing activities in short bursts. There’s no need to plan a jam packed day of different experiences.
4. Enjoy the great outdoors
For most people, the best place to be is outside, enjoying and exploring nature. Outdoor and nature-based activities appeal to many people and will help those living with dementia both emotionally and physically. Activities can range from being guided around a park to a woodland walk. There are also organisations who take outdoor activities for those living with dementia to a whole new level. Visit dementiaadventure.co.uk to find out more about their impressive work.
5. Plan the journey
Some people with dementia can become bored or uncomfortable on longer car rides whereas others enjoy watching the world go by and listening to music. You’ll know what your loved one can manage and therefore which destinations are accessible. Plan the journey, however long it may be. Are there places to stop for a break?
6. Timing is everything
Some people living with dementia may become anxious in crowds and traffic jams. Travel outside of rush hours and, if you can, use a satnav that tells you in advance of problems ahead and will find you another route. Avoid visiting popular places on weekends and in school holidays.
7. Whatever the weather
The weather needn’t put you off. Being able to feel the wind on their face or smell fish and chips in the air gives those living with dementia a sense of space and time and a welcome distraction from their symptoms. Get out and about in autumn and winter – not just spring and summer.
8. Do a recce
It’s always worth checking out a new venue in advance of your trip as it’ll help you to relax and put your mind at ease ahead of your outing. You’re the best judge of what your loved one can and can’t manage. But here are some things you may want to look out for:
- Disabled parking close to the entrance
- Accessible toilets
- Accessible footpaths (this doesn’t always mean wheelchair friendly)
- Suitable cafe or restaurant facilities
- Quiet places to eat or rest
9. Venue inspiration
There are thousands and thousands of places to go and things to do with people living with dementia. Here are some suggestions to help you to find the perfect place to visit.
- Start small. A trip to your local park is the perfect way to start. And it may be all your loved one wants to do.
- Is there a tea dance in your area? These traditional events usually include tea, cakes and a raffle and are very popular. These are often listed in the back of local newspapers but you can find them online too. It’s worth booking a place in advance.
- Visit your local tourist information centre for ideas of museums or historical places in your local area.
- Enjoy a traditional afternoon tea. Garden centres, historic homes and local hotels are all places that lay on afternoon teas that you can enjoy together.
- Visit your local garden centre. Many now have fantastic facilities and tend to be quieter – but just as entertaining – as high street shops.
- Search online for a sensory garden in your area. These have been specially designed to provide visitors with different sensory experiences, with scented and edible plants, sculptures, water features and winding walkways.
- Memory cafés are a great way to meet other people living with dementia, and their carers. You can just drop in unannounced. They usually meet monthly for a couple of hours. An online search should help you to find a local one.
- Your local library may have a memory box for you to borrow. These contain original objects, like ration books, vinyl records, photos and documents which will draw your loved one back in time. Spending a few hours reminiscing is a very comforting experience for people with dementia and is something you can do together.
- Woods are a fantastic, free resource and often overlooked as a day out. Go online and visit The Woodland Trust or The Forestry Commission to find nearby woods that you can explore together.
- Get closer to nature with The Wildlife Trust and The RSPB. Visit wildlifetrust.org or rspb.org.uk for dozens of ideas on places to visit and things to do.
- Keep an eye on your local newspaper for reminiscence shows. The Moonlight Theatre Company, for example, tours the country presenting hour long themed mini-musicals with vintage songs and dances.
- Research has proved that being around animals has many positive benefits for those living with dementia. Do you have a friend with a friendly dog, or is there a petting zoo nearby?
- Day centres are great for helping people who are living with dementia to have a change of scenery. They offer the chance to learn new skills and to participate in a range of activities from art and craft to dance.
- Your local reservoir or nature reserve is likely to have easy and flat walkways. Many have picnic areas too, so you could take a picnic and some bird seed for the ducks.
- If you live by the coast, make the most of it! Paddle in the water, take a stroll along the pier, eat fish and chips out of the paper and end the day with an ice cream.
- Look out for The Rough Guide to Accessible Britain in your library or local bookshop. It isn’t dementia-specific but it does have lots of suggestions for accessible places to visit around the country. The guide is free to Blue Badge holders and is produced in association with Motability.
- Rediscover our heritage. English Heritage, National Trust and National Trust for Scotland properties have sites with good access and facilities. Their websites will tell you more, and there are phone numbers you can call if you need to ask questions.
10. Keep a record
Use a little book to record all the places you visit. You’ll have a useful reference guide for places that have been most enjoyable that you can visit again.
“Seaside trips are always a favourite with our residents. We go to Southsea every year. The residents paddle in the sea and enjoy the feel of the water on their feet. We always take a video of it so we can relive the moment again and again.”
Ros Stevenson, Home Manager, Whitebourne.
11. Be prepared
Every person’s needs are different, and you know your loved one best of all. However, when you’re packing for a trip, it can be useful to have a checklist of things to take"
- Money – cash and credit card
- Radar key for disabled access to toilets (see section in the back of this guide)
- Blue Badge
- Ample food and drink
- Identity cards/photos, for pockets
- Regular prescription medication
- Mobile phone (fully charged) with emergency contact numbers stored
- Suitable footwear
- Umbrellas and rain coats OR hat, gloves and scarves OR sun hats and sun tan lotion
- Camera/camera phone or camcorder
Tips from Care Uk's Good To Go guide. For more advice on caring for someone with dementia visit www.careuk.com
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