Caregiving on the Move: Tips for Easier Outings

Dad & Amy Grocery Shopping at Trader Joes Jan 2015
Trips to the grocery store help Daddy exercise and socialize.

Let’s face it: Getting out and about with a loved one who has cognitive or mobility challenges can be a logistical nightmare.

The equipment, timing and transportation mishaps are often a comedy of errors — like the time I left the trunk wide open for two hours after retrieving Mom’s wheelchair, or when Dad, who has Alzheimer’s disease, spits his food on the floor at a restaurant.

Despite the headaches, I’ve remained determined to get my parents (and Dad's service dog, Mr. Jackson) out in the community for  ball games, movies, concerts and routine activities like grocery shopping. I wouldn't want to be stuck at home all the time, so why should they?

Plus I strongly believe that preventing isolation and supporting quality of life is a crucial part of caregiving.

But many caregivers are daunted by the effort required. So I thought I’d share some of my tips for successful outings.

Make a plan: To prevent snafus, envision every step, including:

  • Transportation. Consider where to get in and out of the car, where to find handicapped spaces or whether valet parking is available. Use gadgets that ease getting in and out of the car.
  • Restrooms. Know where they are and whether family restrooms are available.
  • Timing. Estimate how long it will take — then add at least 30 minutes for unexpected delays.
  • Medication schedule. Don’t miss a dose while you’re out.
  • Plan B. Have a backup plan in case someone gets too tired, anxious or confused.

Make a checklist: Having necessary supplies is crucial. For Mom, I kept a tote bag in the car as well as a bag on her walker with extra clothes and incontinence products. Other things you may need to bring along:

  • Sunglasses
  • Medications
  • Water and snacks (I always have chocolate!)
  • Tissues
  • Blankets (in cold weather, or for excessive air conditioning)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Cellphones
  • Reading materials if a long wait is involved

Accept help: I’m not afraid to ask for an extra hand when needed. The vast majority of people are supportive, stopping to hold open a door or carry bags. For more complicated outings, like going to the theater or a concert, I ask a friend or family member (or pay a caregiver) to come along.

Adjust outings according to abilities: Unless it’s necessary, don’t stop all outings because one type or place doesn’t work anymore. Dad is growing more confused and anxious when he’s out, so I carefully plan his outings to familiar places. Purposeful exercise is important for him to maintain mobility, so sometimes just getting in the car, going to the drive-through and getting him a treat is enough to keep him moving.

I admit that these outings aren’t always easy, but they've been worthwhile for so many reasons, including the memories we’ve made together, the smile on Mom’s face as she maintained her sociability despite physical challenges, and the comfort Dad gets from familiar routines. My efforts pale in comparison to what they’ve gained.

Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving by Amy Goyer
 Amy Goyer is AARP’s family, caregiving and multigenerational issues expert; she spends most of her time in Phoenix, where she is caregiving for her dad, who has Alzheimer's disease and lives with her. She is the author  of AARP’s  Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving . Follow Amy on Twitter   @amygoyer  and on   Facebook .

Search AARP Blogs

Related Posts
February 04, 2016 09:00 AM
When Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I knew he would need all of his senses to help interpret the world around him and balance his changing cognitive abilities. But he has hearing impairment and limited vision (glaucoma plus visual-processing problems associated with Alzheimer’s). Even though there is only so much I can do about the visual issues, I assumed  hearing aids would solve his auditory problems. I was wrong. The good news is that we eventually discovered a surprisingly simple solution.
February 01, 2016 10:00 AM
The phone rang one day when I was at work. It was my mom. “Come right away, Elaine, we need you,” she said. Mom had just driven Pop to the emergency room. I knew Pop must have been very sick, because Mom hadn’t driven a car in years.
January 21, 2016 01:00 PM
I have been both a live-in caregiver and a long-distance caregiver. In fact, currently, I’m really both. My dad lives with me (as do my sister and her two sons at the moment), and I also travel for work, about a week every month. I’ve learned to manage my loved ones’ care no matter where I am. Here are some of my tips for other long-distance caregivers.