August 31, 2015
Let’s be honest: Alzheimer’s and other dementias can bring with them some unsettling behaviors that make it stressful to go out in public with someone who has this disease. It can be embarrassing if a loved one with dementia unexpectedly begins taking his clothes off in a restaurant or falsely accuses a stranger of stealing. Worse, many businesses and their employees don’t understand the special needs of customers with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Instead of being supportive and understanding if your loved one says or does something strange, an employee may ask you to leave the establishment. Ouch!
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 behavior 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. Using these helpful tips will equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to venture confidently into a public setting.
Seek Out Alzheimer’s Friendly Businesses
If you want to plan an outing for your loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, look for Alzheimer’s friendly businesses because these establishments have completed specialized training to better serve customers with dementia illnesses and their caregivers.
The Alzheimer’s Friendly BusinessSM 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.
Look for the Alzheimer’s Friendly Business decal on the window of your local establishments. This seal signifies the business has completed the training program.
And if you don’t see the decal at your favorite store or restaurant, tell the manager about this valuable training, which covers:
- Insight into dementia diseases
- How to use redirection to cope with a customer who becomes disruptive
- How to respond to agitation in a customer with Alzheimer’s
- How to help with decision-making by offering simple choices
- What to do for individuals who are lost and cannot provide the contact information for a relative or friend
Keep a “Go” Bag on Hand
Make outings easy 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, magazines, books or anything you normally find yourself reaching for when you take a short trip. By having this bag constantly at-the-ready, you can pick up and head out on a moment’s notice. Download the free Alzheimer’s Go-To Checklist for a complete list of items you may want to consider bringing with you.
Pack Portable Snacks and Water
Keep healthy, grab-n-go snacks on hand, like apples, small containers of grapes, energy bars, cheese sticks or crackers. This benefits you as well as your loved one, since frazzled caregivers often go for hours without eating as they attend to their family member’s needs. And don’t forget to take a couple of bottles of water to stay hydrated.
Learn How to Handle Misbehavior
You can start by understanding the underlying need beneath a behavior. 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 behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
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 behavior to the strangers around you. Let them know they’re witnessing a disease process at work. Some caregivers print small cards to hand out that state the individual has Alzheimer’s and to please forgive the outburst. Discretely handing a stranger an explanation card can also help preserve your loved one’s dignity. Read more about How to React When Someone with Dementia is Inappropriate in Public.
Pat Yourself on the Back
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. So pat yourself on the back. You deserve it!
And don’t forget to remind your favorite establishments to become certified as an Alzheimer’s Friendly Business by taking the free training program.
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