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Tips to Make Outings Easier When a Senior Has Dementia

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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® 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.

Last revised: August 31, 2015

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. April 29, 2016 at 7:25 pm | Posted by Lauren Woodley

    It's nice to know that more businesses are becoming more Alzheimer's-aware. That being said, you talk about how you should seek out these types of businesses because it will make outings a lot less stressful. Plus, it will help you get your loved one out of the house and doing things that will benefit them. Thanks for sharing!


  2. February 26, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Posted by Kyler Brown

    My wife and I just moved into my grandmother's basement. We have noticed that she has a little dementia, so this article was very helpful for us. I like the tip to keep a "go" bag on hand in order to make outings easier. Thanks for sharing this.


  3. January 18, 2016 at 9:46 am | Posted by Faylinn

    My father-in-law has dementia and recently moved in with my family. Although we have a home care service help take care of a lot of his needs, we are still adjusting. We have found it very difficult to take him places, but I am hoping that these tips will help taking him to run errands or to go on a family outing much easier. I especially like the idea of having a "Go" bag and think that it will help him and us as well.


  4. October 26, 2015 at 11:53 am | Posted by Jake White

    My grandfather has dementia, and I'm trying to figure out ways to communicate with him more effectively. This was the perfect article, and I will be sure to follow these tips closely with him. I liked the tip to prepare explanations in advance, because sometimes my grandpa can be pretty offensive in public. Thanks for sharing this with me!


  5. October 3, 2015 at 12:45 pm | Posted by Gerrie Roberts

    My husband has later stage Alzheimer's, is bedbound, cannot walk, and speaks only a little. Please give me ideas for outings for him.


  6. October 3, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Posted by Gerrie Roberts

    My husband, who has later stage Alzheimer's, is certainly getting isolated. He is bed bound and speaks only a little but certainly knows what is going on. Will you give me ideas for outings for him?


  7. September 16, 2015 at 11:34 am | Posted by susan huber

    I am so grateful of this email. I had experienced embarrassing behavior few times my husband had showed in public. I was a fool to confront him after. No use, he certainly doesn't remember what he did. Next time, I had to be careful whose friends I will be with who understands his outburst behavior. Thanks for useful tips.


  8. September 13, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Posted by Gabrielle

    My understanding is that there are three levels of this brain disorder. It is great that the article is encouraging caregivers to take their loved ones out for a change of scenery; however, at some point, isn't there a need for routine and predictability? Also, we have found that in my father's case, he can be brought back down from obnoxious behaviour by agreeing with him. For example, he sometimes thinks people he knows have died. If we try to tell him they are alive, he gets very angry with us because he says "nobody believes me!" So, now we agree with him that it is very sad when someone dies and then deflect with a question about something in that person's past (like what their job was, how he became friends with them--anything to help him remember the good times.)


  9. September 12, 2015 at 4:42 pm | Posted by P. Kay Green

    I have yet to see an "Alzheimer's Friendly" business or resturant in our greater urban area, yet we live in a popular retirement region with more and more dementia "challenged " folks.


  10. September 10, 2015 at 10:22 am | Posted by Ann Marie lasinski

    This was such a helpful article. I appreciated the emphasis too that an outing would lift someone's spirits. They do begin to become isolated. My loved one is in an institution that won't let him go out. He loves going out, too.


  11. September 10, 2015 at 8:29 am | Posted by Patricia Gonzales

    This is great info>>>Hope I do not have to use it, but I have a family member that is headed that way. thank you for the info.


  12. September 9, 2015 at 11:24 pm | Posted by Margaret June

    This is very helpful. My husband has dementia and is in a nursing home. with a friend's help I have been able to bring him home twice a week and out to lunch once a week. He is very well behaved but is messy at times eating. I enjoy it so much and I know he loves it. I bring a special bag when i visit him with water etc. and that is a good idea to take one when we go to eat. especially water and kleenex thank you


  13. September 9, 2015 at 6:42 pm | Posted by Tricia

    would you have a list of the restaurants that are Alzheimer and Dementia friendly? Nor sure I would recognize the seal on the restaurant since this is the first I have heard of this program. Thank you


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