FlowersPersonalized Outings for Persons with Dementia
By Dorothy Seaman, MS.. RN

Many families ask for guidance on suggestions of appropriate outing for their loved ones with dementia, but there are no easy answers. Because the person's interest, likes and dislikes often change during the course of the disease, the caregiver is left with the challenge of finding new activities to engage or entertain the person.

In creating such activities caregivers should ask,"Whose needs an I trying to meet?" Then establish goals to fill the needs of that person. For example, try not to continue the relationships as it was by preserving familiar activities your loved one can no longer take part on. Some familiar activities can be continued for a long time into the disease, as long as they are adapted to the person's changing abilities.

Caregivers you know and are sensitive to the needs of their loved one can continue to make sound judgments about what works and what doesn't. Be careful not to take on the roles of "patient" and "caregiver" and only tend to daily needs such as eating and bathing. Without thinking, you might fall into the habit of meeting your loved ones needs at the expense of your own, or vice versa.

When considering outside activities or outings for you and your loved one, think about simple goals you hope to accomplish, such as: exercise and fresh air, being together in a relaxed setting doing something enjoyable or interesting, feeling love and support from relatives and friends.

After setting these goals, keep the following in mind:

Plan activities that were enjoyable in the past, and begin making any changes based on interest and tolerance.

Go to places at times when there are fewer people and they can offer prompt service, such as in a restaurant. Lunch and early dinner are ideal times.

Limit time spent on one activity. Activities that last longer than a few hours are often to taxing.

Consider activities that are flexible enough to permit a change of plans, such as leaving a party early.

Plan activities that don't require much concentration, but have some ability to hold the person's attention. Try visiting a pet store, zoo or flower shop.

Allow the person to participate according to ability -- demand more than he or she is capable of doing. For example: "Come on, you remember your sister-in-law Barb".

Enjoy simple activities: a walk in the park or an ice cream cone from soda shop, a walk along the waterfront, a stop at the local playground.

Be creative in trying things that might be unusual. How about a trip to a garage sale or a leisurely stop at a local bakery.

Most activities are meaningful for persons with dementia because of the supportive relationship they share with their caregiver. As the disease progresses, many individuals rely on familiar outings that the person with dementia enjoys. Remember that a break in routine, though refreshing for the caregiver, may produce stress and discomfort for the person with dementia, familiarity, not variety is the spice of life to them

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