When your loved one receives a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the fear and uncertainty can feel overwhelming.
Adapting to the changes is a challenge, no matter how much you’ve read and researched.
Going out in public, for example, can require careful planning and special knowledge when your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s.
It’s important to remember that these diseases can cause embarrassment, social withdrawal and increased anxiety in both public and private spaces.
Here are some easy ways to make the experience easier:
The unfamiliar public world may present stimuli that are simply too much for your loved one. It’s important to be understanding, and also to prepare for the possibility that he or she will become overwhelmed.
- Take note of situations which seem to irritate or overstimulate your loved one. Do crowds bother them more than bright lights? Do they become irritated when they have to sit, stand or walk for long periods of time?
- Assess their needs before you go out in public. Are they hungry or thirsty? Do they need to use the restroom? Is their clothing or shoes causing them discomfort? Ask these questions before leaving the house to ensure that they are as comfortable as possible in the public space.
- Be prepared with a comforting activity or conversation if your loved one becomes overly agitated.
While there isn’t a fool-proof method for predicting how the public sphere will affect a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it can help to understand your particular loved one’s mood and tendencies.
Wandering is very common behavior associated with dementia.
When you go out in the public space, it’s important to stay alert and in tune with your loved one so they don’t have a chance to slip away into the crowd.
If your loved one is particularly at risk of wandering, there are some ways you can prepare:
- Make sure your loved one has an information card in a pocket or on a necklace. The card should include their name, condition, address, and the name and phone number of a caregiver. This will help them be safely returned if they should wander and get lost.
- Consider enrolling your loved one in the MedicAlert® Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return® This is a 24-hour emergency response line that will offer a strong community support network, including law enforcement, to help locate your loved one in the occasion that they wander and become lost.
- Keep your loved one nearby. If you have to, hold their hand or keep a hand on them while you’re out.
Have Communication Techniques
Often, a person with dementia will become agitated, aggressive or unresponsive once they enter the public sphere. The stimulation and unfamiliar surroundings are overwhelming, causing them to become distressed and react negatively.
It’s important to have a set of communication techniques in place to help you discern what’s bothering them and possibly bring them back to an even mood.
- Keep your questions short and simple.
- Make eye contact when you talk to them.
- Use their name when speaking to them.
- Respond to their aggression or agitation with comforting phrases, tones of voice and gestures.
- If they will allow you to, hold their hand or place a hand on their shoulder. Signs of affection will help them feel more comfortable and at ease.
Ask for Help If You Need It
If your loved one is at stage of dementia that is too much for you to handle alone, a trained caregiver can make things easier for everyone involved.
Bluebird Homecare has over 28 years of experience in the home caregiving industry.
We specialize in providing care for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Many of our caregivers have certifications and training in the disease, helping to give families and patients confidence and peace of mind.