Out and About!
Assuring your senior loved ones enjoy community activities is important – and good planning can assure a successful outing. Should the senior be in a wheelchair or use a walker or a cane, it is especially important to understand the challenges of the environment ahead of time. “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of visiting the place ahead of time,” said Lori Capers, CRTS, Recreational Therapist at Westminster Canterbury Richmond. “This is a lesson I learned the hard way many years ago! Today, I always take the time to do a reconnaissance visit and speak with personnel at the site to be sure I know how things will work!” Why is this so important?
- While restaurants, theaters and other venues truly want to accommodate, there are often surprises. Check to see if there is enough room in the restrooms to accommodate the needs of the senior you accompany. Check the entry doors – is there more than one door to manage and is there enough room for a wheelchair between the doors? Where is the handicap seating at a special event, and how will the line of sight work for your special person?
- Staff will be able to tell you if there are special requests you should make prior to your visit.
- Be willing to be an advocate for your loved one. Sometimes it is necessary to ask a few questions and search with the staff for a workable solution so the experience is rewarding. This can feel uncomfortable for your senior – but when arrangements are preset, the outing can proceed without “hiccups!”
When deciding where to go, be sure to ask your loved one about their favorite memories and their desires. Several years ago, Lori Capers visited a resident and learned that she missed the feeling of the wind in her hair when riding her motorcycle. Lori knew they couldn’t cycle but could recreate the sensations with a convertible ride. So many healthcare residents enjoyed these rides that it has become a popular annual event! Lori makes sure the vehicles will accommodate the transfer from wheelchair to the front seat – and she plans ahead for needed helpers. Listen and try!
The benefits of outings are plentiful. Most often Lori hears from residents, “Thanks for this – I feel normal!” It is important to provide these connections – both for the ongoing sense of normalcy and for stimulation and engagement.
Lori advises that you think through the entire activity for safety and timing. Plan for flexibility, not cutting too close to deadlines such as curtain times at the theater. Think through the experience from the point of view of your loved one. For example, a buffet restaurant is less desirable for someone who isn’t able to walk and hold a plate. Be sure you bring along the next dosage of medication. Decide ahead of time if you need an extra pair of hands and invite another family member or friend to join you.
Finally, enjoy the outing! The extra time it takes for arrangements will be rewarded through the joy that is shared together.