Taking dementia patients for outings: a volunteer shares his experience

Satish Srinivasan volunteers two days a week at a dementia day care centre in Bangalore. As part of this, he coordinates activities for the patients and also takes them for outings. [note]

Could you give us an idea of the locations you have visited along with the patient, and how the patients responded?

We have been to 13 places so far. Aquarium, Science Museum, Planetarium, Elders Enrichment Centre Malleswaram, Bimba Art Hut, Lal Bagh Flower Show, Ramakrishna Ashram, HAL Aerospace Museum, Bangalore Dairy, Lal Bagh, NCAA, Ragi Gudda Anjaneyana Temple, Durga Puja Pandal

In all cases, patients responded well and were enthusiastic. Some examples of their responses:

  • When we went to the aquarium, one patient,who was normally  not communicative, said she had an aquarium at home with similar fish!!
  • There was a particular patient who used to ask me every time I came in as to where we were going today!!
  • One client thanked me profusely after each visit
  • One client wanted his picture (hard copy) which I gave him. Next time he gave me a 50 rupee note and said thanks (I had to politely return it to him)
  • They loved the Lal Bagh flower show.
  • They liked playing badminton and cricket and knew the basics.

What is the state of dementia of the patients you take for the outings? Are they able to walk without support? Are any of them on wheelchairs?

The patients are either in the early stage or middle stage of dementia. Some walk without support and some with support. Only one client needs a wheel chair.

What about the toilets at the destinations? How dementia-friendly did you find the locations you visited?

Toilets are available in all places we visited. Generally, all these places visited are dementia friendly with lifts, wheel chairs etc. available,

Could you give us an idea of the planning that each outing requires? For example, how do you decide on a destination? How do you check its suitability for the outing? How do you prepare the patients? How do you take them and bring them back?

A fair amount of planning is required such as:

  • Suitability of the weather (should not be too hot)
  • The place is to be open on the day of the visit. This is to be checked out earlier. Many places are closed on Mondays. Some places are open 365 days of the year
  • The timings of the visit are also important. Many temples close at 12 noon and open only in the evening
  • The place of visit should be close to the day care centre so that patients can return to the day care centre in time for lunch. Also, in an emergency, the group should be able to return to the day care centre quickly
  • Patients should use the toilets before leaving. Those with incontinence use diapers
  • Water and biscuits are carried
  • The transport should be road worthy and diesel/petrol to be filled in advance
  • Camera to be carried to capture happy moments

The destination should be interesting and not very crowded.

The suitabilty for outing is verified out earlier by physically checking out the place.

The group travels in a van.

How long is each outing? How do you handle it if a patient gets tired midway?

Each outing is between one to two and a half hours. We normally leave by 1030 am and are back by 1 pm.If a patient gets tired midway, we make him/her sit for a while and give him/her water and biscuit

You mentioned once that you find the outings a stress-buster even for the social workers and caregivers of the day care centre. Could you elaborate on this?

The social workers and care givers are very excited about these outings. These outings break their day to day routine which is stressful. Some of the care givers have asked me to organise a visit to Taj Mahal at Agra

Based on your experience, what tips do you have for family caregivers if they want to arrange such outings? For example, tips on planning, on the types of locations that can be visited, or that should not be visited, etc.

The tips to family care givers would be to do the detailed planning as outlined above. The data base of places to be visited, days open, timings, entry fees, facilities available can be shared with all.

You conduct activities for patients in the day care centre. Could you tell us some more about these activities, such as, which activities do the patients like more, and how they respond?

Antakshari, carrom, cards, blocks, snakes and ladders, separating seeds, knitting, colouring, painting are some of the common activities

Could you describe any one popular activity in some detail?

Antakshari is a very popular activity and patients take part singing songs in their own language etc.

Do you have any tips for family caregivers for conducting home-based activities for their patients?

I suggest one visits the day care centre to see the range of activities available. Only those activities that interest patients should be pursued.

The family should try and get extended family, volunteers, neighbours  to help in home-based activities rather than try and do it all alone.

Thank you, Satish!

Note: The day care centre described above is the Nightingales Dementia Day Care Centre at Bangalore. Check our Bangalore resource page for contact information.

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Note: This is an interview of an expert/ volunteer. The views expressed and the suggestions given are those of the interviewed person, and not a recommendation being made by Dementia Care Notes. Suitability and applicability of the suggestions remain the responsibility of the reader. For professional advice suitable for your situation, please consult an appropriate professional.