The "good ole summer time" brings back many fond memories even for those with Dementia. Summer takes us back to camp, fishing and swimming, boating, family reunions, picking flowers, weddings, and picnics. Enjoying summer activities with your loved one who has dementia is a great way to engage them in reminiscing the past. Although your loved one may have limitations on how much physical activity they can participate in, a picnic is a fun outing that may stimulate memories of summers gone by.
Plan your picnic - Decide on the perfect spot, perhaps a place that has special meaning for your loved one or a family favorite park or lake.
Select a basket - Any container that has a handle will work well.
Decorate - Select a theme and gather items that your loved one can glue or tie on the basket. Select decorating ideas to fit the abilities and interests of the person with dementia.
Decide on your menu - Make a list of food and drinks that you will want to bring on the outing. Ask your loved one with dementia to help by telling you their favorite summer foods. Be sure to include items that represent summer; lemonade, watermelon, potato salad, ice cream, and don't forget the burgers! Finger foods make picnicking easier, especially for someone who now has difficulty using utensils. Keep items that can spoil quickly in a cooler right before and immediately after serving.
Gather the essential items - People with dementia respond better to some things more than others. For example when selecting a tablecloth, select a solid color vs. the traditional checkered pattern. Dementia can create depth perception problems and patterns are more likely to cause injuries. Select bold and solid colored picnic ware, studies show that plates that are in sharp contrast to the food and the table help people with advanced dementia more easily distinguish one from the other which may prompt them to eat more. Using utensils with large handles or finger foods will also be helpful. Flexible straws or cups with lids can help prevent spills.
Pack items for activities - Is their a special game or outdoor activity that your loved one is fond of such at horse shoes or croquet? Photo albums of vacations and family gatherings are very stimulating for those with dementia. Music is a must! There is so much research on the positive effects of music and dementia. Even for people with later stages of Alzheimer's music moves and gets a response when nothing else seems to connect. Select music that are old time favorites for your loved one.
Beat the heat - Be certain to bring along proper protection from the blazing sun. Select a spot in the shade, bring a hat and sun screen, and pack plenty of water for not only the person with dementia but for the entire family. Remind your loved one to drink water throughout the picnic. Plenty of water is essential to avoiding dehydration.
Last minute checklist - Avoid rocky, uneven paths or steep hills to avoid trips and falls. Become familiar with the location of the restroom. Select an area that is on the quieter side to avoid extra confusion for the person with dementia.
Lastly summer passes so quickly...organize your picnic and enjoy each and every warm, sunny day!
The above tips were provided by the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.
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