It’s all about planning.
Providing care in the privacy of the home is one thing, but there will be times when you need to do so in public. This can provoke anxiety in some people, who may be worried that the person they care for may not be able to cope or, there may have been an incident in the past that has put you off. Then there’s the fear of causing a scene; of being humiliated by that person’s behaviour—they might soil themselves or cause a commotion by shouting.
These worries can result in a hesitancy to leave the home. However getting out is important, as it allows connection to the wider community, provides stimuli and breaks up monotony. It can be the highlight of the week, or month or year, for the person you look after.
To ensure that the experience is as stress-free as possible, try these tips.
Choose the most optimal time of day
By understanding the routine and habits of the person you care for, you can better predict what will be a good time for your outing. Do they get grumpy or tired after midday? Does it take them a while to focus in the morning? Pick a time of the day in which they’ll feel fresh and alert. Also keep in mind the busy periods for others, especially if you plan on catching public transport or will be visiting a popular place such as a shopping centre. Avoid peak hour so you don’t have to face hordes of people or wait long in queues.
Getting some assistance in the form of a Companion carer is also a great way for your loved one to meet new people and boost social interaction. Besides assisting with daily activities, companion carers are also there to provide access to social outings and activities- all tailored to what you want!
Be prepared before leaving the house
It’s a good idea to have both of you use the bathroom before you leave the house. Some people feel resentful or that it is not age appropriate being told to use the toilet, so you can turn that request into a casual conversation by saying something like, “I always have to go to the toilet before I leave the house; you can go before me if you like.” This can make the other person feel like they have more autonomy and aren’t being talked down to.
Bring emergency supplies
Professional In Home carers are expert at this (gloves, wipes, pill crusher= check!) but with a bit of practice you too will be known as the Macgyver of outings. Equip yourself with a range of supplies before you go out, such as any medication that might be needed, band aids, wet wipes and a spare change of clothes. Having these on hand will come in handy should an incident occur. Be mindful of the weather as well; if it’s going to be warm, take bottles of water and sunscreen, and if it’s cold carry an umbrella and some extra layers of clothing. A backpack will help you carry these items without them being too cumbersome.
Check what facilities are available
It’s worth checking ahead of time to see what kinds of public facilities are available in the places you’ll be travelling through. For example, Southern Cross train station has an adult-change facility with a ceiling hoist! Being aware of what’s available and where will mean that you’ll be prepared if the need for such a facility arises. You can also go online and check out accessible accommodation, restaurants, theatres etc. These days there are pretty much no limits to where you can go.
Get the Out and About app here designed to assist carers and individuals with disability or mobility issues to better access their community.
Distract/ redirect during an incident
If the person you’re looking after does start to shout or exhibits aggressive behaviours, you can try to distract/ redirect them. Stay calm and don’t raise your voice even if the other person is. Point out the things you can see around you, ask them if they can see them too. Pulling out your phone to show them some photos or a video is also a great tool to redirect someone. They may not calm down straight away but remember they are trying to tell you something and this heightened behaviour is the only way they can express it. It can be helpful to carry earbuds so the person can listen to music on your phone. This can calm them down and divert their attention.
Focus on the person you’re caring for, not others
The person you’re caring for is your priority, not the faces in the crowd. If you’re easily embarrassed by instances such as yelling or any other behaviour that can draw attention to you, remember that you’re there to look after that person, not to worry about what the people around you may be thinking. They are probably thinking along the lines of compassion anyway. Fretting about the opinions of others will make it hard to relax, so block out any unnecessary distractions and focus on having a positive experience.
Choose the activity
Does the person hate crowds, are they scared of dogs, do they have a tendency to wander off distracted in the afternoon? Identifying potential triggers to someone’s behavior by being observant and looking back on previous outings can make the experience all the more enjoyable going forwards. What worked? What didn’t?
For example, if you find your loved one really doesn’t have the patience to come to the supermarket anymore but groceries don’t buy themselves! Make the most of some In Home help. There are so many options!
An experienced carer can come to their home and either take them out for an outing giving you time to do the shopping, or help set them up with online grocery delivery, or even go out and do the shopping for them leaving you two to go for a nice walk and lunch instead.
Research has shown that people who regularly engage in social interactions and activities are also better able to maintain healthy cognitive functions. Social isolation, in any of us, frequently leads to depression and anxiety so it is critical to put your own reservations aside and assist the person you care for to access the community.
Being surrounded by friends and individuals they can trust increases self confidence and gives a sense of purpose so being supported to continue favourite activities and maintain relationships should always be a priority in someone’s life.
Older Australian’s, and their families now more than ever, have access to support networks such as Home Care Packages providing not only personal and domestic care but social care. Companion carers, assisted transport to activities and social groups, community programs and assistive technology including computers to help with home shopping and communication (e.g. Skype) can all be part of a Home Care Package so don’t be too proud to check if the person is eligible as this is the new future of care!