Caregiver Tips for Easy Outings with Mom or Dad

July 14, 2009 at 9:17 pm 7 comments

Errand day with your elder can be exhausting, take forever, and not be the easiest thing for a caregiver to pull off. When my mom “gave up” driving (that’s the way she put it–I considered laying in front of the car so she would no longer drive, but I think she would have gunned it…just kidding). I knew that I became my mom’s personal manager. I had to either arrange for all her needs to be met, or do them myself.

And boy, did my mom have needs! The moment she knew I’d be driving her around, I suddenly became “ERRAND GIRL!” No caregiver could ever complete this list in one day! I would drive over to my mom’s house after the girl’s went to school, and my mom would meet me at the door with a list long enough to reach the floor. I had already unloaded the dishwasher, fed three kids, straightened the house, made a half dozen business related calls, filled up the car with gas, and driven a half hour to get her–all by 10am.

My mom had the whole day planned out–a couple of doctor visits, K Mart, shoe repair, the bank, lunch at Krystal’s, stop by her cousin’s house to pick up something, then to the grocery store. No way I could do all that and not keel over, much less my mother who had Parkinson’s!

Over time, I learned how to manage those jam-packed day–and I learned how to figure out just how much she could do, and how much I could do.

Tips for Easy Outings with Mom or Dad:

  • Some people like errands, especially women who think of it as shopping. Don’t shoot her down. She may have looked forward to this all week. Even if you know you two can’t possibly do it all, let her (or him) feel the joy and anticipation of the day.
  • Plan around the current “mode of transportation.” What I mean is that if your mom uses a walker at home, but refuses to out in public–don’t force her to. This transition is difficult. If your dad likes the power scooter, don’t insist he walk through a large store–let him do what he is accustomed to.
  • If those darn superstores are impossible for your elder to navigate (the cat food is a good half-mile from the bread), then shop at a smaller store. CVS or Walgreen’s became much more manageable than a WalMart Super Center, and my mom enjoyed the smaller aisles.
  • If your day is filled with doctor appointments, then slide in a little fun. Eating an ice cream cone from Dairy Queen is a good way to end a “medical” day. You don’t want to return home with bad news–and even if it’s just a check-up, doctors remind us of what’s wrong, not what’s right with us. Counter it with a little bit of fun.
  • Be present in the car. Car talk is a great time to catch up. Hold hands, bring a pillow for their back or feet, and really use this time to visit. Don’t let your mind wander to the rest of your life. This is their time.
  • If you know that there’s no way you can fit in all they have planned, trust that they’ll “poop-out” before the end of the day. If they don’t, then you can speak up and say, “I’m beat. My feet are killing me. I just can’t go one more place today.” They may pout, but they may also be relieved. Like buffets, sometimes our plans are bigger than our ability.
  • Don’t try to pack in your errands with theirs. I learned this the hard way. My mom fully intended that errand day was her day–not mine. I learned to let go and not try to squeeze my shopping in with hers. We all need a few hours that’s just about us. It wasn’t nearly as frustrating when I let go of the idea that I could multi-task. Sometimes it’s nice just to focus on one thing at a time.
  • Make your entrances and exits a big deal. If your parent is still living alone or in a care home, enter with open arms and a smile. Tell them it’s good to see them, that they’re looking good. End the day with a hug and assure them you’ll call. Remind them of when you’re coming over next. We all need something to look forward to. My mom used to stand in her driveway and wave to me until I was down the street and around the corner. Then, I’d call five minutes later to make sure she got back inside. It was so sweet to see her standing there, waving and blowing me kisses.

By planning ahead, choosing to be present and to be in pleasant mood, and deciding to enjoy the day, outings with my mom became something both of us looked forward to.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , , , , .

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ann Blanchard  |  July 15, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    One thing I did that I learned from my cousin’s caregiving experience was to buy a companion chair, which is a wheel chair that is designed to be pushed by another person. It’s pretty light weight and I keep it in the trunk of my car. I’ve taken both my mom and dad for endless trips to grocery stores (those superstores are a killer!), Big Lots, to restaurants and just out for walks. My parents don’t have to worry about tiring out and I don’t have to worry about them finding a place to rest. That chair has paid for itself over and over again by enabling my parents to get out and have some fun. That chair has been a godsend!

    • 2. Carol O'Dell  |  August 8, 2009 at 12:37 am

      Thanks, Ann, I agree–a lightweight wheelchair is a godsend. Many caregivers suffer from backpain, and without a good wheelchair, you and your loved one can’t get out as much and enjoy shopping, restaurants, etc.
      Thanks for commenting and sharing.

  • 3. Kaye - SandwichINK  |  July 15, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    What a great article! I really enjoyed reading it and appreciated the terrific ideas. My mom lives with me but a lot of these are still applicable then as well. Especially the comment about “Be present in the car. Car talk is a great time to catch up.” Most of us work, either outside the home or in our own home office, as I do. Taking that time each week to really spend a day with her has really been a blessing for both of us. 🙂 Thanks again for such an interesting article.

    • 4. Carol O'Dell  |  August 8, 2009 at 12:38 am

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I really do value my car time–with my daughters and husband–and I certainly did with my mom. It’s a cocoon and you can talk about things easier–or just hang out.
      Hope you’ll keep reading the blog

  • 5. Diana Meinhold  |  July 18, 2009 at 12:42 am

    I read your blog with a smile on my face because I know what you are referring to. I’ve been the guardian for a friend with Alzheimer’s for the past 7 years. I see her every other Sunday and have been doing that actually for over 12 years because I visited my friend even before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

    All the suggestions you have about how to make a pleasant and successful outing with your loved one are right on target. What I might add is some additional things to think about as the loved one declines in mental and physical health.

    My friend is beginning to have more bouts of choking because the swallowing mechanism gets impacted by the Alzheimer’s. So, we need to be very sure she has very soft food, very moist food, and that when she is chewing I don’t ask her a question or say anything that would cause her to reply. She needs to concentrate on the act of eating. Also, be sure that restaurant staff don’t rush over and try to do the Heimlich on the elder because so many of them are suffering from osteoporosis and you can break their rib cage so easily.

    Another thing to be aware of is the incontinence. Always carry an extra set of clothing and some adult diapers when you go out in case anything should happen. This happened twice before I got smart enough to carry these with me all the time.

    Finally, be sure you have all important documents with you when traveling on an outing with your loved one. You never know when you’ll end up in an emergency room or need to make a cash withdrawal for unanticipated expenses. I always have a small suitcase on wheels with me that has copies of all necessary documents such as power-of-attorney, medical professionals’ phone numbers, etc. Being prepared means being able to handle the urgent or the critical while staying as calm as possible around your loved one.

    But all of this is worth it to have the person say, “What would I do without you?” It wlll break your heart and warm your heart all at the same time.

  • […] Caregiver tips for easy outings with senior parents. […]

  • 7. Carol O'Dell  |  August 8, 2009 at 12:41 am

    What a thoughtful friend and companion you are! Your faithfulness is admirable. And thanks for adding even more great ideas. You’re so right about the documents–even putting them in a large ziploc baggie so it’s easy to put in the car or a bag can make life so much easier if something were to happen.
    My mom experienced the choking thing with Alzheimer’s as well. It really does take thought to remember to let them eat without interruption–and for it to be moist.
    Your comments are most appreciated.


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Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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