Summer months are an excellent time to take your residents for trips to city parks, mountains, and other scenic places. The benefits of these activities are numerous. A simple change of environment has been proven to help increase mental focus and awareness.
One gentleman, who rarely spoke, went on an outing with our group and started reading all the traffic signs and advertisement out loud. Another lady who usually kept her eyes closed and rarely responded to any stimuli opened her eyes and pointed to different signs, trees, and buildings while on the trip. Just the feel of a bus moving can provide a positive stimulus. Outings offer an incredible sensory experience.
Hopefully, most care facilities have transportation available for large groups to take outings. If your facility does not have a van or bus, transportation companies will often take groups on field trips for a change.
- From many planning experiences and going on outings with groups of Alzheimer’s residents, I’ve learned a few things that might help a trip go smoothly. Residents with dementia can often have unpredictable behavior, so it’s important to plan outings that are short and straightforward, Here are some key points to consider.
- When going to an event where there are lots of people (i.e., museums, zoos, garden shows, circuses. It’s best to have a staff ratio of 1 to 3. Folks can wander off so easily and be overwhelmed in large crowds of people. When going to major events, find volunteers, staff and family members who can accompany the group.
- Short scenic trips, where residents just stay on the bus and go for a ride can be very successful.
- Allways take a jug of water, cups, napkins, and wipes along the trip.
- Plan trips that take no longer than 2 hours on a bus. We found that 10 am – noon is a good time to travel since most of the residents were alert then. We usually parked and served a beverage and a midmorning snack.
- Don’t limit trips to higher functioning residents, since the sensory experience of an outing can be beneficial to people in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Ahead of time, arrange details with the staff at the place you intend to go. This planning can ensure a private room (if dining out) or group seating in an easily accessible place.
- When planning a trip, always let nurses, CNAs, and other involved staff know when and where the trip will be. Nurses may have medications that need to be given before the journey and CNAs need to plan their daily duties.
The following ideas are some successful outings that we’ve had with residents in various stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Add your thoughts to give your residents the best possible outing experience.
- A farmer’s market or florist for table centerpieces
- A visit to a local park with old bread to feed the ducks.
- A trip downtown to see tall buildings and busy, narrow streets. One of our ladies commented on a business women walking in a business suit and tennis shoes.
- A ride to the mall for coffee and cinnamon rolls
- A visit to the airport to see planes flying overhead. One gentleman who used to be a pilot started talking in technical terms about flying
- A drive to the country to see cornfields and farm animals.
- Diner’s Club was a monthly outing for higher functioning residents. We reserved a room at a restaurant with a buffet like Country Buffet or County Harvest. When we arrived (we usually had a group of 16 residents and four staff), we seated residents in the private room. Our team then took turns getting silverware, drinks, and salads. We found that it was confusing for the folks to go to the food counter and choose their food, so we filled their plates for them. We kept their choices simple such as asking if they wanted chicken or fish. It was an excellent experience since the residents often ate more in the restaurant than they did in the facility, which helped those with weight loss. ( Of course, we did have to return the 14 salt and pepper shakers that one of the ladies had quietly and expertly stuffed in her purse.
- A trip to the zoo proved to be a rewarding experience. We had enough volunteers, family, and staff to take 20 of our lower functioning(and end stage) residents to the zoo. Each person has a wheelchair to push, and it was a bright, sunny day. Some of the residents were unable to see or focus on the animals, but the fresh air, sunshine, sounds, and the good sack lunch made for a most pleasant activity. Even though the outing was hard work. Everyone agreed that the responses from and the smiles on the faces of our residents made it very worthwhile.