It’s that time of year when we want to take our elders out for a ride to see the Christmas lights, or take them along for a holiday shopping excursion. We get excited to share holiday meals together at our homes or a favorite restaurant.
But what if going out causes them stress? Sometimes it does.
As much as our elderly family members love being with us, leaving their homes or their residences can be stressful and confusing. Sometimes, it is better to ask them before we assume that they want to come along for the ride.
If they get grumpy afterwards, if they change behavior when you take them out, it could be just too much to change their routine. For some elders with dementia, the new surroundings are confusing and overwhelming, causing them to get restless and, sometimes, angry or grumpy.
As a geriatric clinical psychologist offered to me – ask them first. And don’t expect a quick answer. Ask a few days prior. Tell them what you have in mind and ask if they want to go. Then ask again the day before you plan to take them out. Sometimes they will say “yes” and still not enjoy it. Don’t take it personally – it is not you – it is the change in routine, the change in a comfortable and predictable environment that does it.
Ask their caregivers what happens when you take your parents out and bring them back. Are they grumpy, confused, and hard to get to sleep? If yes, you might want to spend your time together in your elder’s environment. They love seeing you and they can enjoy the time with you in a safe, predictable place.
This is not easy to digest, I know. I am walking the same path. We have to ask ourselves – are we doing this for them, or are we doing this because we want them to enjoy it? This is a hard, introspective question for some of us.
But, for their sake (and sometimes for yours too), think about what might work best. Ask your elders, ask their caregivers, ask yourselves – what can we do that reduces stress on everyone and still keeps our time together fun and memorable?