Out & About: Keeping Your Loved One Safe in Public

As the country begins to reopen, it’s tempting for families to (finally!) take their loved ones with dementia out of self-isolation for visits to their favorite parks, restaurants, places of worship, and other areas that have been off-limits for months. With careful attention paid to the CDC-recommended public safety protocols, such as mask-wearing, handwashing and maintaining six feet of separation, now is a good time to also remember other safety considerations for older adults with dementia. “Whenever a person with dementia is in a public space, it’s important for their caregivers to consider how their loved one’s symptoms could increase their risk of injury or getting lost,” says Jillian Castellano, Community Relations Director at YourLife™ of Coconut Creek, a Memory Care community in Coconut Creek, Florida. “If the person’s favorite public spots are popular, they may be overwhelming and unpleasant for people with crowd-sensitivity when their area first ‘goes green.’” In this post, we’ll present tips for making public outings safer for your loved one and more enjoyable for you both. Symptoms to Consider: • Routine reliance: stay-at-home orders took public visits out of seniors’ routines; reintroducing them may take time, patience, and thoughtful scheduling • Behavior: prone to wandering or becoming easily confused, fearful or agitated • Sense of time and place: they get lost in their own neighborhood or fail to meet you at a designated time • Physical ability: lack balance or stamina • Senses: impaired hearing or vision/depth perception or heightened sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures Things to Take with You: • Identification items, such as a medical ID bracelet with your phone number on it • Consider a wearable tracking device that will send your loved one’s location to your smartphone • Bottled water and snacks, such as granola bars • A favorite item that brings them comfort • In your wallet or purse: o A recent picture of your loved one in case they get lost o Doctors’ contact information and insurance cards o A list of your loved one’s current medications and dosages o A list of your loved one’s food and drug allergies o Contact information of someone to call in case of an emergency Shopping, Dining Out & Around the Neighborhood • Make sure your loved one is dressed appropriately. Consider having them wear layers if you’ll be experiencing differences in indoor/outdoor temperatures. • Footwear should be comfortable, offer proper support and have no-slip soles to increase both safety and mobility • Avoid busy places that can cause disorientation or anxiety, such as noisy restaurants or large celebrations. • Do not leave your loved one unsupervised in new surroundings. If you must take them shopping, for example, consider bringing a friend or family member to keep them occupied so you can find what you need and check out without worrying about them getting restless. • Avoid places with several points of egress, such as shopping malls. Instead, choose a stand-alone store and inform workers near the exit that your loved one has dementia. Give them your name and ask to be called if they see your loved one without you. • Ensure all basic needs are met to discourage wandering and other challenging behaviors. Ask often if they need to use the restroom or would like a snack or drink of water. • Always accompany the person to the restroom. Look for companion care bathrooms so you will not have to leave the person unattended in an unfamiliar place. • Choose restaurants that are familiar to your loved one and known for kind, prompt service. Make a reservation in non-peak hours and request a table near the restroom so you can escort your loved one there quickly and easily. • At the restaurant, be sure your loved one’s meal is cut into manageable pieces or consider ordering finger foods. Ask your server not to overfill your loved one’s drink, especially hot beverages that may cause burns if spilled. • You may wish to take along a special dining kit for your loved one. These place settings and utensils are intentionally designed to make it easier and safer for people with dementia to eat and drink. • When visiting parks or taking walks, take note of any animals or small children around you that may run into your loved one’s path. Beware of aggressive or overly excited dogs that may harm your loved one or knock them off their feet; if dogs are unleashed, politely ask their owners to leash them until you have passed safely. • Avoid busy intersections and note that your loved one may have difficulty distinguishing between the curb and the street. Also be aware of any cracks, sticks, rocks, or other obstacles that could pose tripping hazards. • Be extra vigilant about keeping your loved one cool and properly hydrated when spending warm days outdoors. Traveling • Print several copies of your travel itinerary. Keep one in your suitcase and one on your person. • If staying in a hotel, consider notifying the staff about your specific needs ahead of time so they can prepare to assist. The night staff should also be informed if your loved one is prone to wandering. • Consider using a travel security lock or alarm to keep your loved one safe inside your room. • Keep water, snacks, games, music playlists, and other activities handy on long road trips or flights. Related: Traveling with Dementia: 6 Ways to Know If It Will Work Airports • Avoid flights with long layovers or tight connections. • Consider calling your airline several days in advance to reserve a wheelchair. It will prevent your loved one from wandering, and an attendant can help expedite the journey to and from your gates. • Explain to the person what is involved at each stage. Consider telling the TSA checkpoint security agent and flight crew that your loved one has dementia and if the person has any relevant triggers they should know about (e.g., a dislike of being touched, loud noises, or confined spaces). For more dementia-safety tips or advice for successful outings, call the life-enrichment experts at YourLife™ of Coconut Creek today! 954-228-6252 Inspiring Memory Care Designed for You. Defined by You. YourLife™ of Coconut Creek was created to provide the most exceptional Memory Care and uplifting lifestyle for our residents. We focus all our energy, attention and resources on creating a community that caters to each resident’s personal needs, respects their choices and honors individuality while providing unmatched peace of mind and support for families. Because Memory Care is our sole focus, we have the unique ability to design and personally tailor plans around our residents. We understand that each resident is an individual that has their own story, specific needs and retained abilities, so we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence. Our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide assistance with everyday activities, gentle reminders and redirection. With YourStory, our signature programming, we create an individual experience centered around each resident. From cultural, educational and holistic health and wellness programming, outings and an array of other special events to personal care, assistance and therapies, we create days with meaning. At YourLife™ of Coconut Creek, our residents and families know that this is a community designed for you, with a lifestyle defined by you. Contact us to learn more! Call us at 954-228-6252 for more information or to schedule a virtual visit today.