As we approach Memorial Day, many will be gathering with family and enjoying the outdoors. Those who have family members with dementia, whether from Alzheimer’s or other reasons, need to take this opportunity to make their own day special.

The focus of Memorial Day is “memories” and ironically that’s the one area that seems to slip away from those who are aging with dementia. However, if you have family gathering for one day out of the special weekend I’d like to point out some ways to bring your loved one into the action without causing upheaval. Some things to remember when dealing with a dementia patient:

• Let those you know and will be with during your picnic or celebration that your loved one is suffering from dementia. Ask for an extra set of eyes to just keep an eye and make sure that your loved one doesn’t wander. This will let you drop your own guard a little bit.
• Take the time to introduce your loved one to everyone they are sitting by. Remind them who the person is and if possible what relation they are to the person. They may not remember but they won’t feel as lost if you continue to address people by name.
• Remind them who people are. Tell others that when they approach your loved one to let them know who they are, even if they’ve been “introduced” a number of times throughout the day.
• Make sure that before you leave your home your loved one has their clothing marked with their name & your cell phone (which should be kept with you at all times). If they should wander away & the police find them they will look for information on their clothing. If at all possible, have an ID bracelet made for them that is fairly difficult for them to get off. If you can get them to wear all of the time as a part of their daily outfit, it can be a life saver. You don’t have to spend a lot of money for a bracelet engraved with the words Dementia Patient – a contact & if possible their first name. Basically you want to make sure that if they wander off & are found, someone understands that they are a dementia patient and who they belong to.
• Bring items that will keep your loved one busy. Remember that it is often like taking a toddler with you. Most parents would pack a bag of items needed for their child to keep them busy; the same should apply during outings with dementia patients.