How can I get my aunt who has dementia to leave her house...

2 answers | Last updated: Nov 21, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

How can I get my aunt who has dementia to leave her house for appointments, family visits, entertainment, social activities, etc.? She often refuses. My aunt used to be very active.

Expert Answers

Beth Spencer is a social worker in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with more than 25 years of experience with families who have a member with dementia. She is coauthor of Understanding Difficult Behaviors and Moving a Relative with Memory Loss: A Family Caregiver's Guide. Previously, she directed Silver Club, early-stage and adult day programs serving individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses.

Many people with dementia become uncomfortable going out, even when they have been social people in the past. There are many possible reasons: Feeling discomfort in larger groups because they can no longer keep track of what is going on or follow conversations; feeling safe in their familiar environment and unsafe when they are out of it; being afraid of failing or making a fool of oneself; not remembering how to behave or negotiate particular situations.

Most often I think people refuse to go places because they are afraid. My suggestion is that you prioritize where your aunt needs to be. Figure out what's most important and what brings her pleasure. Most likely she will be most comfortable if one or two people visit her in her space instead of expecting her to go out and be part of large groups. For appointments, make sure someone she trusts is taking her. Think about how to make her feel safe and secure. If she becomes extremely anxious, don't tell her until the last minute that she'll be going somewhere, and then make the outing low key and as comfortable for her as possible.    

Community Answers

Marly26 answered...

First and formost your aunt has to trust you. I would then figure out what home you have found best for her. Take her there just for a visit. Most places will allow this.If you speak to the Head Office and explain the situation they will have her meet a few ladies who have the same interests as her. See how that goes. Try this a few times, associating her with a room (basically a room that she may have.)as well as again, meeting up with these few new ladies. It is so hard for them to leave such a familiar home as their own. She is terrified. Treat her with kid gloves, or as per say a child. When dementia sets in it is a very scary place for them. Take along some items that she is interested in, reading perhaps, something that she really likes. Take her to the tearoom or activity room. See how she associates. You can try an couple of homes, one may please her and again the same set up. If you know of someone that your aunt knew, and is in a home, perhaps try that one. Just tell her your going on a visit and encourage her to go with you. You can sit and have tea/coffee with her,give her the chance to look around. Ask her if she's been there before, show her around expressing the good things, different people, the activity room, the diner etc. After your visit take her home and ask her how she liked the outing and where she was. If you dont' get a positive note on one, try another. Encourage her thoughts that are good, tell her you think its great that she feels that way. When you know she is comfortable ask her if she would like to go and spend maybe the evening. I know here in Ontario,Canada they welcome this. Even if it means that you go with her. You can as well make the time that is close to lunch or dinner and go in with her, tell her that you are taking her for supper. In reality you are, its just going to be in the home. I'm sure once she is actually there with you, she may find comfort knowing that she is not alone with her dementia, she will see others' as well. I wish you so very much luck, again treat her with kid gloves, it will help. My prayers are with you. Take care.