Updated: May 4
Being in public with a loved one who lives with some form of Dementia can be stressful for the care partner if that person suddenly starts to express themselves in a way that others find out of the norm.
Hey, it can happen, it's life, and it's okay. But, if Uncle Ned starts to take off his clothes in a shopping mall, or your wife, Alice, falsely accuses a stranger of stealing, what do you do? Worse yet, many businesses interfacing with their customers don’t understand the special needs of those living with Dementia, and instead of being supportive, may firmly ask them to leave the establishment.
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 some form of Dementia said they and their loved ones had become more isolated as a result of the risks. Caregivers said the unpredictable behavior that can sometimes accompany Dementia made the idea of going out in public taxing.
Fortunately, more businesses are becoming “Dementia-aware,” and you can promote this trend by supporting these forward-thinking stores. Using some helpful tips will equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to venture confidently into a public setting.
Seek Out Dementia-friendly Businesses
These establishments have completed specialized training to better serve customers with Dementia illnesses and their caregivers. Employees of these businesses have been given insight into the various types of Dementias, how to respond to agitation in a customer with Dementia, how to use re-direction to regain focus of the customer who becomes disruptive, and how to help with decision-making by offering simple choices.
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 a form of Dementia and to please forgive the outburst. The Dementia Society of America is about to publish its useful and practical Aware Share Card™. Please send us a note here if you would like some mailed to you upon their availability. Discretely handing a stranger an explanation card can also help preserve your loved one’s dignity.
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 it up and head out at a moment’s notice.
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 Various Behavior
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. Dealing with challenging behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s disease or other Dementias can put a strain on the caregiver, but knowing what to do - whether by distracting the person or changing the environment or activity - can make all the difference in the world.
Pat Yourself on the Back
Each time you take your loved one with Dementia out in public, you provide interactions that can lift his or her mood and soothe that person’s 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!
Source: Caregiverstress.com, a resource of Home Instead Senior Care. Modified slightly from the original to present a more pan-Dementia perspective and to remove words and phrases that are not part of our communications.
The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor.