With more than two million people in the UK predicted to be living with dementia by 2051, one of the UK’s largest providers of residential care, Care UK, has published Good to Go – a guide to overcoming the challenges of getting out and about, aimed at transforming the experiences of those caring for loved ones living with dementia.
According to Care UK, fears around the person getting confused or lost, or being unable to cope if things go wrong, mean accessing the great outdoors can be a daunting prospect for carers of those living with dementia, and many are afraid to leave the safety of their own home.
Good to Go highlights how important it is for those with living with dementia – and their carers – to get out and about, and the emotional and physical benefits of staying active. The guide explains how to make the most of every outing, big or small, with practical advice and words of encouragement volunteered by people working in Care UK care homes, as well as residents and family carers.
Veteran broadcaster and journalist, Angela Rippon, who cared for her late mother, Edna, when she was diagnosed with vascular dementia, has welcomed the publication of Good to Go.
Angela, who is an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society and co-chairs the Prime Minister’s Dementia Friendly Communities Champions Group, said: “In my experience, there are good days and bad days when caring for someone with a memory-impairment condition such as dementia, but it is really important for you and the person you’re caring for to regularly get out and about – to enjoy a change of scenery and feel the sun on your face from time to time.
“When my late mother Edna first received her diagnosis, I didn’t know anything about the condition – I had to rely on help and advice from others. It was very difficult to not constantly question if I was doing the right thing, treating mum in the right way.
“Ensuring mum still felt part of the community and could take part in the same activities she always had, such as a trip to the hairdressers, was essential to her quality of life. We often found getting outdoors was the secret to turning a bad day into a good day, and it cheered me to know I was doing something positive for mum’s wellbeing.”
Pauline Houchin, Head of Care and Clinical Services at Care UK, has worked in the care sector for 36 years and also has personal experience of being a family carer. At Care UK, Pauline manages two teams: one offering training and clinical support to homes; while the other - the specialist dementia team – focuses on increasing the wellbeing of residents.
According to Pauline, Good to Go has the potential to improve the day to day experiences of those living with dementia and of those whose lives are also affected by the condition. “It is absolutely essential that family carers are given support and practical advice to enable them and their loved ones to enjoy all the benefits of being outdoors as often as they can.
“Anecdotal feedback suggests outdoor activities can bring back memories to give those living with dementia moments of calm and clarity; however it’s perfectly understandable that with so many physical and emotional demands on carers it is all too easy to fall into a routine and stay indoors.
“Good to Go is packed with tips which we hope will really make the difference to those who see trips out as a challenge too far. It’s so important to remember that being ‘good to go’ does not have to mean going far afield or on long days out. For someone living with dementia, it can be enough to simply watch the wildlife in the garden, or to walk to a local coffee shop.
“Contributors to the guide suggest building in lots of flexibility when making plans, and then being prepared to go with the moment – don’t push the person to do something they really don’t want to do, but similarly be happy to act if they express a sudden desire for a stroll around the park.
“As the guide points out, there really is no need to be held indoors by the weather. In fact, being able to feel the wind on your face or the smell of fish and chips in the air can give those living with dementia a sense of time and place and a welcome distraction from their symptoms. Those who shared their experiences for the guide advised throwing on a warm coat, getting out into the fresh air and enjoying all the benefits it brings.
“We hope Good to Go really helps carers feel supported, know how to prepare, and feel confident when going out with loved ones. Yes, activities may need to be adapted, but just because a person is living with dementia it doesn’t mean you have to stop doing things they love. Shape trips around their personal interests and keep activities familiar – based on what they used to enjoy doing. Ask your loved one where they want to go, be prepared to go with the flow, and above all, make the most of those moments of togetherness.”
Visit www.careuk.com/good-to-go or download a copy of Good to Go and read real life stories and top tips. Free copies of the guide can also be picked up from any Care UK home. To find your nearest Care UK home and information on any forthcoming dementia advice events, enter your town or postcode into the Care UK location finder.