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Supporting people with dementia to get out and about

It's important that people with dementia continue to enjoy being an active part of their community.

An introduction to supporting with people with dementia to get out and about

70 per cent of people living with dementia say they’ve stopped doing the things they used to enjoy because of lack of confidence. More than a third feel lonely and this rises to nearly two thirds of people who live alone.

Dementia 2013, The hidden cost of loneliness, Alzheimer’s Society, 2013

Clearly, something needs to be done to support people to get out and about.

Plan ahead before a trip

Simple changes and careful planning can make a big difference:

  • Have a friend or family member accompany the person.
  • Some charities have befriending services that can help with the same role.
  • If swimming changing rooms are becoming challenging because of disorientation, or the person struggles to get themselves dressed, enjoying the activity with a friend could make the difference between going or not going.
  • Perhaps a member of their church could collect the person so that they can continue to attend their place of worship.
  • Choose quieter times. Avoid mother and baby groups, which may be overwhelming. The supermarket will quieter on a Tuesday morning than a Saturday afternoon.
  • An out-of-town store with easy parking may be better than high street shop that involves a bus ride. 

Look for dementia-friendly activities

Many clubs, shops and groups are becoming ‘dementia friendly’, meaning staff will be aware of the challenges of dementia and can offer appropriate support.

These might include:

  • Swimming sessions
  • Dementia friendly choirs, which have the additional benefit of meeting new people, having fun together and sharing experiences and being socially active.
  • Dementia friendly film screenings, where the lights stay on and there’s a comfort break during the film.

Glenda Roberts talks about going to a dementia-friendly screening of White Christmas

All museums across Wales are dementia friendly, and free! And there are many dementia cafes. Is there one near you?

Find a dementia café near you

Don’t try to do too much at once

It’s sometimes better to do one thing and enjoy it, rather than trying to do too much at once.

Going swimming with a friend may be a success but going for a pub lunch after it and then popping to the supermarket on the way home may be too tiring and the enjoyment of the swim is lost.

While it may not be you accompanying the person to their preferred clubs or trips, knowing what’s available in your local area can make a huge difference.

Sometimes a word of encouragement and a point in the right direction is all the person will need.

Dewis Cymru is a great source of information for resources across Wales.

Balancing risk and well-being

There are risks involved in everything we do: cooking, gardening, walking or DIY. This is true with or without dementia.

In dementia care there’s constant debate about how we support people with dementia to have meaningful activities that might involve risk.

Professionals and families often become risk averse and the consequences on a person with dementia’s well-being and quality of life can be significant.

The main law which supports decision making is the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

The Act starts with an assumption that people have capacity to make decisions for themselves unless proven otherwise.

So if someone with dementia wishes to continue working with wood, they can, in the same way as you could make that decision. Even if that decision might be unwise.

‘Positive risk enablement’ is the way forward.

This approach acknowledges and identifies risks and puts measures in place to minimise them without eliminating risks all together.

It acknowledges there are consequences to physical and mental health by not taking part in meaningful activities and that to truly live well with dementia, people will take risks.

Positive risk taking is often a balancing act. Simple actions and the use of assistive technology may help achieve the balance.

For example, taking a mobile phone with emergency contact numbers while out on a walk may help the person with dementia feel more confident that help is at hand if needed, and give the family carer the confidence to let them go.

Using public transport

Every person who’s diagnosed with dementia must tell the DVLA, who’ll assess their ability to drive safely.

For many, the reality is they’ll lose their licence.

This can be a difficult time for a person living with dementia and can lead to dependence on others or on public transport to get around.

The impact can be heavier in rural areas, with poor public transport contributing to increased isolation.

Dementia in rural Wales: the lived experience

However, many areas have community transport services for people who find it difficult to use public transport.

These include door-to-door transport and trips to shopping centres.

Search for community transport services in your area

The Dementia Action Plan for Wales (2018) has committed to supporting people with dementia to use public transport by ensuring that

  • transport planners and operators consider their needs in major contracts like the South Wales Metro and rail franchises
  • public transport staff are trained about the barriers people living with dementia face when using their services.

The Dementia Action Plan for Wales

Research links

Improve your practice by accessing the latest research findings.

We also have a page of research on loneliness, chosen by Dr Deborah Morgan of the Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research (CADR) at Swansea University.

What is the Relationship between Health, Mood, and Mild Cognitive Impairment? (2016)

Therapy through social medicine: Cultivating connections and inspiring solutions for healthy living (2017)

Last updated: 11 December 2019