Getting Back Out There with Dementia

Latest advice from the Alzheimer’s Society on shopping and visiting public places…

With government restrictions now easing, it is possible to get out and about more. This can mean some readjustment for many of us. But for people with dementia, being out and about again may be more of a challenge.

Supporting the person with dementia in public places

We know that many people have lost confidence or skills due to the lockdowns and changes in guidance we’ve all been living under. They may also feel unsettled now that restrictions are eased. For some people, learning how to do things differently is difficult.

Despite the easing of government restrictions, certain retailers and services are keeping specific guidance, such as the use of face coverings. See our advice on continuing to keep safe and well.

Someone with dementia out shopping or visiting a café or leisure centre may have difficulty knowing when they are supposed to wear a face covering and what the guidance is from one location to another. 

If the person has difficulty wearing a face covering when needed, read our advice on how to help. (Available on the website. Details below.)

People affected by dementia have told us about other difficulties such as:

feeling confused with familiar people or places they’ve not seen for a while

losing confidence and being ‘out of practice’ in being out in public or interacting socially

becoming disorientated by social distancing measures such as one-way systems, barriers and screens in public places which might remain in some places

being unsettled by people with their faces covered, or confused about why some people are wearing masks while others are not

being confused by unfamiliar signs or floor markings in shops and public areas, which might remain in some places

wanting to be closer to other people and being confused or upset if they move away from them

being worried about other people feeling too close in queues and crowded aisles

lost confidence using public transport

feeling lonely or anxious, and approaching someone too closely.

You may find yourself in a difficult situation where the person you care for is finding it hard to readjust to being in public or know what the specific guidelines are for that particular location.

Ask for the patience and understanding of people around you. It can help to make short trips to the same places to get the person used to the new guidance, then gradually build up to longer visits to other places. 

Pay attention to the signs and displays about hand sanitising, one-way systems and limits on numbers in shops and other places you visit. If you’re unsure about the guidance in a particular place and you want to go in, try calling their customer service centre or speaking to a member of staff when you arrive.

Image by Javier Ocampo Zuluaga from Pixabay

The following may also help the person adjust:

travelling and shopping at quieter times

before travelling, look for any updates or changes to transport timetables; buy tickets or top up any travelcards over the phone or online so that you won’t need to do this at the station or at the bus stop

encouraging the person to carry an ‘I have dementia’ or other help card to show as needed

asking them if they’d like to wear a ‘Please give me space’ or sunflower lanyard

going to smaller, quieter shops or the outside area of a café to get used to being out again, before going to large supermarkets or shopping centres

making sure you know where the toilets and customer service desk are in each shop

asking a member of staff what changes have been made so you know what to expect

asking for support from the shop or people you know in your local community – if the person agrees and it can be done sensitively without causing upset

using a card to pay rather than cash; this minimises the contact you will have with other people and items

Difficulties with shopping

If you are struggling to go out and get shopping, or having trouble getting food delivered, contact your local authority, council or trust. Explain clearly how low on essentials you are, what is stopping you getting more, and that you have no one else to help. 

You can also call our Dementia Connect support line for more information.

Our dementia advisers are here for you on 0333 150 3456

Image by Igor Ovsyannykov from Pixabay

Whether you have shopping delivered or go out to shop yourself, mention that you are a carer for someone with dementia, who is vulnerable. This can help as long as you both feel comfortable doing this and if you trust the person you’re telling. It may not be easy, but it could make the difference between getting priority customer service and not.

Can I have shopping delivered?

You may prefer the convenience of having shopping delivered, if you can. During lockdown some supermarkets reserved delivery and ‘click and collect’ slots for vulnerable customers.

You will need to contact each supermarket to find out if they are still offering this, and how to register for a priority slot. If it’s more convenient, get someone you trust to place the priority order online for you.

If you can’t arrange an order, there are other ways to get supplies delivered. You could look into:

asking a friend, family member or neighbour – this may be a convenient way to get the shopping in

local community volunteer groups – set up by your parish council, local faith community or a group of local volunteers; they should be able to help you with essentials

NHS Community Response Volunteers – set up by the Royal Volunteer Service and NHS – responders can help you with shopping or collecting a prescription. Call 0808 196 3646 for information about being referred to the scheme.

You may feel worried about dealing with people you probably don’t know. The schemes above check their volunteers. Many retailers have also started a giftcard or voucher scheme. You pay for these in advance either online or by phone, so don’t have to hand over your bank card or cash to someone shopping for you. As well as this, many supermarkets and shops are set up for someone else to shop for you, and then you pay over the phone through their customer service desk.

Any help you are offered should be free of charge. Nobody should ask you for any money for their help.

Read advice on how to make payments safely from the Royal Voluntary Service and UK Finance. We have more about avoiding Covid scams.

For more information please go to:

Kitty Parsons

Kitty knows that she will always be an incomer, but this is to be her sixth summers. The wet and grey days of winters have not diminished her love of Pembrokeshire, but she is always grateful for the golden light of spring and summer. Her love of the sea sustains her even through the darkest of days and she can often be found at high tide bobbing about in Fishguard harbour at high tide, often with seals in attendance. When not freezing in water she is usually at her computer. She says" has been an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful county and its people. Keep the stories coming. We love to hear from you."

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