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3.8 Strategies from others for when you are out and about

People with dementia share their strategies to overcome difficulties when out and about.

I keep getting lost, including inside buildings

Suggested strategies:

  • If you’re going to a new place where you think you might get lost, get a map or floorplan and plan the route beforehand.  
  • If you’re going to an appointment in a large building, call ahead and ask if someone can meet you at the entrance and guide you to the office.  
  • If you are going into a big shopping centre, take a photo of the entrance where you entered so you can find your way out. 
  • If you are driving somewhere new, take note of where you parked your car by taking a photo or making a note in your notebook. 
  • Ask whoever you are with to take the lead on navigation. 
  • Ask someone for directions if you are unsure. 
  • Make sure to carry your personal details (address and key contact numbers) in your wallet or purse. 
  • If you have a smartphone, download an app like Google Maps and practice using it to navigate. Try the “live view” feature which uses your camera to point you in the direction you need to walk. 
  • If you have a smartphone, set up a ‘ride share’ app like Uber and program it with your home address. If you get lost, the app can use your phone to find your location, call a driver to that location, and instruct the driver to take you home.

I lose track during conversations

Suggested strategies:

  • When possible, plan appointments or social events when you are at your best mentally (e.g., in the morning). If this is not possible, try to make sure you are well rested the day of the event. 
  • For important conversations (e.g., doctors’ appointments) prepare a list of questions or discussion points. Write notes or ask if you can record the conversation on your phone so you can listen to it later.  
  • If you’re in a place where several conversations are happening at once, focus all of your attention on one conversation. If needed, move the conversation to a quieter area so it’s easier to focus. 
  • Socialize in small groups (e.g., up to six people). One-to-one works better for some people.  
  • If you lose track part way through a conversation, ask the other person to repeat themselves. 
  • If you’re not following a conversation but don’t believe it’s an important conversation for you to follow, simply nod and smile. 
  • If you need a break, take a break (e.g., go to the bathroom, or walk elsewhere to have a rest from the conversation.) 

I worry I might make a mistake when out in public

Suggested strategies:

  • Spend time with people you feel comfortable with and who will understand if you do make a mistake.

  • Ask someone to act as your ‘buddy’ when out in public. Ask them to support you and help you if they think you are going to make a mistake.

  • Accept that you may make mistakes, but know that most people won’t think much of these anyway. Getting out to do things you enjoy far outweighs the small risk of doing something embarrassing when you’re out.

I can’t remember people’s names

Suggested strategies:

  • Refresh your memory of people’s faces and names before going to an event. For example, put together a printout or a small photo album with photos and the names of those you see regularly – you can look through these before going out. Even a list of names is helpful if you don’t have photos. Take the list with you when you go to the event.  
  • If you use social media (e.g., Facebook) you can use this as a reminder of faces and names. Similarly, messaging apps such as WhatsApp often include a picture of the person. Browse your contact lists before going to an event. 
  • Ask a friend or family member to remind you of people’s names. 
  • Ask the person whose name you’ve forgotten to remind you of their name“I know who you are, and I’m really sorry but I’ve forgotten your name. Can you please remind me?”  
  • It’s okay if you’re having a hard time remembering or memorizing people’s names. If you’re having a bad day or if you simply just can’t remember, that is okay. 

I have trouble finding the right words

Suggested strategies:

  • Practice saying the names of items, events, and people you have trouble remembering. You may keep a list of words that you commonly forget, and practice those. 
  • If, during a conversation, you can’t find the right word, talk around the meaning of the word. The person you are speaking with might be able to fill in the word and allow the conversation to continue. 

I get more frustrated or upset in unexpected situations (e.g., delays) or with people (e.g., who are unhelpful or rude)

Suggested strategies:

  • Be aware of when this happens, take a deep breath, try to stay calm, and walk away if you need to. 
  • Tell your friends and family that if the unexpected happens, you want them to prompt you to stay calm and help you find the right response, but you don’t want them to take over. 
  • Beforehand, ask a trusted friend or family member if they would be willing to step in and respond to the situation if the unexpected happens. 

Consider using the “I have dementia card”

If you are out in public, you may need to let other people (for example the bus driver, cafe staff or receptionist) know that you, or the person you support, has dementia.

You could simply tell them and state the sort of support you need, but some people find carrying an assistance card helpful. This is especially the case if you need more time to manage a situation, such as:

  • handing over the correct amount of money
  • organising follow-up appointments
  • identifying a bus stop.

The card discretely alerts people that you may require their help and support. You can make your own card or download and print the I have dementia card.

Try some strategies