There are obviously several challenges that need to be overcome if someone living with dementia is to come on a day trip or even a church weekend away. However, these challenges shouldn’t exclude them and is obviously easier if they’re travelling with a carer. There are a number of things that need to be thought about but, with the right preparation day trips and even weekends away shouldn’t be out of reach.
The key to a great trip for someone with dementia can be down to the type of outing or weekend away itself. Unfamiliar places and lots of people doing unusual activities can be very disorientating, so choosing locations and activities that are familiar can make the trips less stressful. A church weekend away can be a really enjoyable time as it is a holiday break with familiar people, especially if it’s somewhere that the church have gone before and the person living with dementia is familiar with it.
So, you’ve decided you are going to organise a trip or weekend away what can help?
· Firstly, it goes without saying that someone with more advanced dementia shouldn’t travel alone as they will need their carers support. However, if they are travelling with a loved one or their carer there really is no reason why they can’t be included in church trips. In fact, a day trip or a church weekend away with a church group of friends can be really enjoyable and also ease the pressure on the primary carer bringing a really welcome break. Those extra helping hands and pairs of eyes will ensure that the person with dementia remains safe and supported and can help their carer or loved one to have time to relax.
· To help make the trip/weekend away go smoothly try and have as many people as possible Dementia Friends. Especially those who are the group/trip leaders. This is Alzheimer’s Society initiative which helps people to understand dementia and how to communicate with and include those living with dementia. It is delivered through an hour-long session and we can’t recommend this enough.
· Ensure that before you go you have spoken to the carer/loved ones and that you are aware of any important limitations or difficulties that may be experienced. That is not to say the group leaders must become specialist carers themselves, just that they know what is involved in case there are any actions that may need to be taken to keep the trip running smoothly. Speak to the loved one/carer who will know the person best.
· If you are organising a weekend away it is a good idea to contact your accommodation provider ahead of your trip to let them know there will be someone with dementia in your party. They may be able to offer some extra assistance or support during your stay.
· Ensure that you have emergency contact details including a name and telephone number. This could be a friend or a relative but should be someone who would know what to do in the event of an emergency, especially if for some reason the carer becomes incapacitated.
· Have a detailed itinerary. It is far easier for the carer to ensure that they believe the person with dementia can cope if they know what the programme is. Having a schedule to refer to can also help the carer to feel calm and in control. This can in turn help to relax the person living with dementia.
· Take a photo of the person with dementia before you leave and every day you are away. This can be extremely useful if they become separated or get lost at any time during your trip or weekend away. Make sure to take both a close-up of their face and a wide-angle image that shows what they are currently wearing. That way you can show people around you exactly who you are looking for.
· You could also give the person with dementia an ID bracelet that has a brief description of the condition, as well as contact details that can help you find each other again.
Just because someone has dementia they should not be excluded from going on church trips or weekends away. Hopefully, you can see from the list above that there are a number relatively easy actions you can take that ensure that those living with dementia and their carer/loved one can remain included and a full part of your church family.