By Cheryl Edwards-Cannon
There is a perception that those with memory loss must be confined and are not allowed to venture out. Yes, there will come a time in the progression of the disease where it becomes impossible to venture out much beyond the front porch. Until that time comes, here are a few benefits that these outings for the elderly can provide. Bear in mind, that you will reap the reward of spending some meaningful time with your loved one doing the things you both love doing—together.
It’s true that our sojourns required some advance planning and more than a bit of patience on my part. When my dad, who used a wheelchair, accompanied us, we used to perform what I came to call “the entrance ballet” which required precise timing to get everyone safely into our destination. Yet even with Logistics Olympics, I knew there would come a day when Mom’s illness would progress to the point where she could no longer join me. So, I resolved to preserve every possible moment I could with her while she was still able to get out to see the sights. And I came to treasure those outings very much.
I firmly believe that it’s so important to help people with dementia participate in the outside world. In addition to the joy of spending time with my beloved mother, there was another benefit— one that people may not realize. Anytime you can get your loved one with dementia out and about to do something that’s familiar, it’s comforting to them. This comfort soothes people with dementia and eases their anxiety. The staff of my mother’s residential home told me that relaxing activity often helps residents wind down for the day and sleep better at night.
As someone who teaches an “Aging in America” college course, I know that all older adults benefit from getting out and about, not just those with dementia. Research indicates that older adults who spend time interacting with a wide variety of people experience physical and mental health benefits. So I would encourage you to think about the elderly in your lives: who do you know who would enjoy getting out and about for a nice walk, or a visit to a park? Or even a “front porch visit” for those who are uninterested or unable to leave their home?
When your loved one has dementia, you soon realize that outings will one day come to an end, so I chose to view them (with all of their attendant “hassles”) as a blessing. My loved ones benefitted too – in social, emotional, and physical ways – from our times together. There is indeed value in helping the elderly get out and about, as it can help to take the edge off of loneliness. Perhaps you will consider an elderly friend today?
About the author – Cheryl Edwards-Cannon holds a certificate in Gerontology and is the owner of Clear Path Choices, a consultancy that helps families provides direction and support for families facing elderly care challenges. She is the author of Taking Care of Miss Bee Bee and her writing has been featured in three Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. Learn more at: www.clearpathchoices.com.
Want more stories like these? Check out our archives on being a friend to the elderly.