Welcome to the sixth of my seven blog posts for UK Dementia Awareness Week 2015.
This year’s Dementia Awareness Week centres around the theme of doing something new for people with dementia, under the mantra that ‘Life doesn’t have to end when dementia begins’. For many people living with dementia in care homes, however, a lack of opportunities to have meaningful occupation and activity, or even just enjoy the simple pleasures that many of us take for granted, can lead to life feeling like it really has ended.
Over this Dementia Awareness Week (DAW2015) I want to look at some of the positive things relatives and staff can do to enhance the lived experience of people with dementia in care homes. They may be new things, or they may be old favourites, but they all share in the ability to turn a boring day into something a little bit more special.
Day 6: Getting out and about
One of my greatest frustrations about care homes is the fact that so many of them have effectively become prisons, not because the people living in them have done anything wrong, but because of fears over safety and security, and a lack of care workers to facilitate getting out and about. However, this has to change; locking people up when they’ve done nothing wrong is, frankly, inhumane.
Granted, not everyone living with dementia in a care home wants to go out and that is entirely their choice, but many other people would love to enjoy the care home’s garden, pop to the shops to buy a new outfit or a newspaper, visit a coffee shop, take a walk (or be pushed in their wheelchair) in a local park or go to the pub, they are just never given the opportunity. Even if a care home offers these options, it is usually to the same old places, which might be perfectly fine for some people, but if extra effort needs to be made to find a coffee shop where the cakes are tastier, or a pub serving different local beers, then that should happen.
In order to get my dad out and about in his local area we initially used taxis suitable for disabled people, and then eventually found a community mini-bus to hire for a very nominal fee. This enabled us to go further, including to family attractions, an open farm and a local wood with a café. All very enjoyable days out, not just for dad but for us as a family and for the care workers who were involved.
Best of all, not only does getting out provide stimulation and enjoyment, it can help with improving appetite and sleeping patterns and reducing distressing symptoms. So, do something new this spring/summer and help your residents, or your loved one, to get out and about.
More information, tips and advice on making use of the great outdoors can be found in the following D4Dementia blog post:
Next post on 23 May 2015.